Human development is determined by biology and culture. Biologically seen, the history of evolution has brought us certain cognitive biases, whereas our cultural legacy is built through interactions with other people. OLIVIER MORIN pursues research at the intersection of these two legacies and his particular area of interest is cultural transmission. As he explains in this video, one thing we inherit from evolutionary history is a preference for certain kinds of lines. His research aims at finding out how writing expresses and reflects these deep preferences that come from our evolutionary history. A second question of interest, for him, is the timescale in which cultural evolution manages to invent new shapes. Morin has examined the letters of 116 writing systems from all over the world and found that, indeed, the deep cognitive bias for certain lines and shapes is expressed everywhere. More surprisingly, he could also establish that these ideal shapes do not underlie a very long timescale of cultural evolution.
The Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology (MPI-GEA) focuses on the interrelationships between natural and human-made systems, looking into the deep past and distant future to examine how humanity has driven the emergence of the Anthropocene – the geological period in which human activities began significantly impacting our planet’s climate and ecosystems – and how we can still positively influence its course.
The transdisciplinary research at MPI-GEA will bring together research areas represented by all three scientific sections of the MPG: Biology & Medicine; Chemistry, Physics and Technology; and Human Sciences. Corresponding inter- and transdisciplinary research projects concern, for example, planetary urbanisation, the global food system, and global material, energy and information flows.
Spontaneous Emergence of Legibility in Writing Systems: The Case of Orientation Anisotropy
Published in 2017
How Traditions Live and Die
Published in 2015