Helena Miton

There are two main features that make human culture unique among other organisms. First, what emerges as culture is highly non-random; of all the objects, language modifications, and behaviors that emerge within human cultures, only a few small subsets become cultural phenomena. Second, as cultural elements evolve and are shared over time, it allows us to achieve things that no one individual could accomplish alone. Incoming Omidyar Fellow Helena Miton’s work aims to explain these two features by combining fine-grained empirical data and a theoretical grounding in cognitive science. Her projects have explored the stability of widespread maladaptive medical practices like bloodletting and anti-vaccination beliefs, and the cultural transmission of complex visual and graphical patterns, including coats of arms and writing systems. She plans to use complexity science tools to develop mathematical models of cultural evolution, models that could better account for the complexity of real-world cultural phenomena. Helena is completing her Ph.D. in cognitive science at the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. She will join SFI in January 2020, and she plans to explore the role of institutions in fostering and transmitting innovations.