Quentin Atkinson

Post-doctoral Research Fellow, University of Oxford

Research Fellow, Wolfson College


Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology

University of Oxford

64 Banbury Rd

Oxford OX2 6PN


I am a Post-doctoral Researcher in the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University, where I study cultural evolution. My background is in psychology and evolutionary biology and my work covers a range of areas, including the evolution of religion and language, intergroup cooperation, and the human expansion from Africa. This site has just a bit of information about me, my research interests and some of the work I have done.


Recent news...

May 2010 - I’ve recently moved back home to the University of Auckland, to take up a lectureship in the Department of Psychology. My new website is here.

April 2010 - Advanced online access to The Shape and Tempo of Language Evolution in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London (Series B) with Simon Greenhill, Russell Gray and Andrew Meade.

November 2009 - Mark Pagel and I discuss the evolution of language in one of the DarwinNOW podcasts, part of the British Council’s program celebrating Darwin’s 200th birthday and 150 years since the publication of On the Origin of Species.

April 2009 - I review April and Robert McMahon’s book Language Classification by Numbers.

October 2008 - Prof Mark Pagel and I comment on the potential for genetic adaptations to language in the journal Behavioural and Brain Sciences.

30th September 2008 - Advanced online access to a paper I wrote for Proceedings of the Royal Society of London (Series B) with Dr Alexei Drummond and Prof Russell Gray from the University of Auckland. We use human mtDNA diversity to investigate ancient population expansions in Africa.

1st August 2008 - For the next few months I will be a visiting fellow at the University of Aarhus, where I am investigating the evolution of religious variation around the world.

3rd June 2008 - I discuss Tempo and Mode in Language Evolution in the Complex Agent-Based Dynamic Networks (CABDyN) Seminar series, at the Saïd Business School in Oxford.

23rd May 2008 - A news feature in Nature that discusses some of my work on the evolution of languages.

13th May 2008 - Assoc Prof Gillian Brock and I ask the question “What can examining the psychology of nationalism tell us about our prospects for aiming at the cosmopolitan vision?” 

3rd May 2008 - I felt compelled to write a letter to the editors of NZ Listener Magazine in response to an appalling article by climate change skeptics (“Natural Reactions”, April 19th).

25th April 2008 - Our response in Science to a commentary on the punctuational language change paper.

1st February 2008 - This Brevia piece for Science reports research I conducted with Mark Pagel, Andrew Meade, Chris Venditti, and Simon Greenhill, showing that languages evolve in punctuational bursts associated with the emergence of new languages. This association could arise from a linguistic founder effect or a desire to establish a distinct social identity using language.

20th December 2007 - Advanced online
access to my recent MBE paper with Dr Alexei Drummond and Prof. Russell Gray at the University of Auckland, in which we use Bayesian coalescent inference of population size to show that “mtDNA variation predicts population size in humans and reveals a major southern Asian chapter in human prehistory”.

19th November 2007 - Release of a book that I co-edited with Dr. Niki Harré from the University of Auckland, entitled “Carbon Neutral by 2020: How New Zealanders can tackle climate change”. This book brings together experts from a range of disciplines who offer practical solutions to the problem of reducing New Zealand’s carbon emissions.

11th October 2007 - Language evolution makes the cover of Nature! In this issue, Prof. Mark Pagel, Dr Andrew Meade and I report on how Frequency of word-use predicts rates of lexical evolution throughout Indo-European history. Prof. Pagel and I discuss our findings in this video-cast. Another paper in the same issue by a team from Harvard also finds an effect of frequency on rates of language change.

!!NEW WEBSITE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF AUCKLAND!!http://www.fos.auckland.ac.nz/~quentinatkinson/shapeimage_3_link_0