I am a CNRS Chargé de Recherches (full-time tenured research position) at the Institut Jean Nicod in Paris. I am also a Research group leader (on leave for the moment) at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, with the Minds and Traditions Research Group.

My work focuses on cultural transmission and touches on the relations between anthropology and psychology, with a special focus on the evolution of writing.

I tweet as @OliverWithAnI and you can also find me on Mastodon (@oliviermorin@scicomm.xyz). My email address is alf.drummond [at] gmail.com (don't ask why).

I enjoy popularising my research in the form of "serious games". The latest one is called glyph.

Painting by Jean-Marc Dumont for my paper on children's traditions in Terrain (with the author's kind authorization)


(last updated: 10/2022)

Scroll down for publications in French


(2015) How Traditions Live and Die. Oxford University Press. (Read the introduction; review of the French edition in Social Anthropology; reviews of the US/UK edition by Kim Sterelny, Andrew Buskell, Csaba Pléh, Pete Richerson).

Journal articles

(in press) Morin, Olivier. The Puzzle of Ideography. Behavioral and Brain Sciences target paper.

(accepted) Morin, Olivier and Oleg Sobchuk. Why monsters are dangerous. Poetics Today.

(2022) Morin, Olivier. Cultural Conservatism Journal of Cognition and Culture 22 (5): 406–20.

(2022) Morin, Olivier, Thomas Franz Müller, Tiffany Morisseau, and James Winters. Cultural Evolution of Precise and Agreed-upon Semantic Conventions in a Multiplayer Gaming App. Cognitive Science 46(2): e13113.

(2021) Morin, Olivier, and Oleg Sobchuk. The Shortlist Effect: Nestedness Contributions as a Tool to Explain Cultural Success. Evolutionary Human Sciences 3: E51.

(2021) Miton, Helena, and Olivier Morin, Graphic Complexity in Writing Systems. Cognition 214: 104771.

(2021) Kelly, Piers, James Winters, Helena Miton, and Olivier Morin The Predictable Evolution of Letter Shapes: An Emergent Script of West Africa Recapitulates Historical Change in Writing Systems. Current Anthropology 62(6): 669–691.

(2021) Morin, Olivier, Pierre Jacquet, Krist Vaesen, and Alberto Acerbi Social Information Use and Social Information Waste. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 376(1828).

(2021) Müller, Thomas F., James Winters, Tiffany Morisseau, Ira Noveck, and Olivier Morin Colour Terms: Native Language Semantic Structure and Artificial Language Structure Formation in a Large-Scale Online Smartphone Application. Journal of Cognitive Psychology 0(0). Routledge: 1–22.

(2021) Standards and Quantification of Coin Iconography: Possibilities and Challenges. Digital Scholarship in the Humanities (fqab030). https://doi.org/10.1093/llc/fqab030, accessed April 2, 2021.

(2020) Pavlek, Barbara, James Winters, and Olivier Morin Reverse Engineering Cash: Coin Designs Mark out High Value Differentials and Coin Sizes Track Values Logarithmically. Cognition 198: 104182.

(2019) B. Pavlek, J. Winters, O. Morin, Ancient coin designs encoded increasing amounts of economic information over centuries. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 56: 101103.

(2019) T.F. Müller, J. Winters, O. Morin, The influence of shared visual context on the successful emergence of conventions in a referential communication task. Cognitive Science.

(2019) H. Miton & O. Morin, When iconicity stands in the way of abbreviation: No Zipfian effect for figurative signals. PLoS ONE, 14(8): e0220793.

(2019) O. Morin, Did social cognition evolve through cultural group selection? Mind & Language.

(2019) Morin, O., A. Acerbi, & O. Sobchuk. “Why People Die in Novels: Testing the Ordeal Simulation Hypothesis.” Palgrave Communications 5 (1): 2.

(2019) Mercier, H., Morin, O. “Majority Rules: How Good Are We at Aggregating Convergent Opinions?” Evolutionary Human Sciences 1. doi.org/10.1017/ehs.2019.6.

(2019) Winters, J., Morin, O. "From context to code: Information transfer constrains the emergence of graphic codes". Cognitive Science.

(2019) Morin, O., Winters, J., Kelly, P. Writing, graphic codes, and asynchronous communication. Topics in Cognitive Science.

(2018) O. Morin & H. Miton, Detecting wholesale copying in cultural evolution. Evolution & Human Behavior. Publisher link; last submitted version.

(2018) O. Morin, J. Winters, T.F. Müller, T. Morisseau, C. Etter, S.J. Greenhill. What smartphone apps may contribute to language evolution research. Journal of Language Evolution.

(2017) O. Morin, Spontaneous emergence of legibility in writing systems: The case of orientation anisotropy. Cognitive Science, 42(2):664-677. Covered by Science online. See also this video.

(2017) O. Mascaro, O., Morin, D. Sperber, Optimistic expectations about communication explain children’s difficulties in hiding, lying, and mistrusting liars. Journal of Child Language 44(5): 1041–1064.

(2016) O. Morin. Reasons to be fussy about cultural evolution. Biology & Philosophy 31 (3): 447–58.

(2016) O. Morin, A. Acerbi, Birth of the cool: a two-centuries decline in emotional expression in Anglophone fiction. Cognition and Emotion, 2:1–13.

(2015) O. Mascaro & O. Morin, Epistemology for Beginners: Two- to Five-Year-Old Children's Representation of Falsity. PLoS ONE 10(10): e0140658. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0140658

(2015) O. Morin, "A plea for 'shmeasurement' in the social sciences". Biological Theory, 10:1-9.

(2014) O. Morin, "Is cooperation a maladaptive by-product of cultural transmission? Simon's Docility Hypothesis reconsidered". Biological Theory, 9(3): 286-295.

(2014) C. El Mouden, J.-B. André, O. Morin & D. Nettle, "Cultural transmission and the evolution of human behaviour: A general approach based on the Price equation". Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 27(2):231-241.

(2013) O. Morin, "The virtues of ingenuity: reasoning and arguing without bias". Topoi: An international review of philosophy, 33:499-512.

(2013) O. Morin, "How portraits turned their eyes upon us: Visual preferences and demographic turn-over in cultural evolution". Evolution & Human Behavior (34), 222-229 (Discover magazine coverage.)

(2013) O. Morin, "What does communication contribute to cultural transmission?" Social Anthropology 21(2), pp.230-235

(2013) O. Morin, "Reply to Carlo Severi's 'Communication, complexity and form'". Social Anthropology 21(2), pp. 241-244 (see also Carlo Severi's article and reply)

(2011) Jean-Baptiste André and Olivier Morin "Questioning the cultural evolution of altruism", Journal of Evolutionary Biology vol. 24, issue 12, pp. 2531-2542.

(2008) Olivier Morin and Julie Grèzes “What is “mirror” in the premotor cortex?” Neurophysiologie Clinique/Clinical Neurophysiology 38, pp. 189-195.

Invited journal articles and book chapters

(2018) "Cultural transmission", in The Blackwell International Encyclopedia of Anthropology.

(2017) "The disunity of Cultural Group Selection: A comment on Richerson et al.'s 'Cultural Group Selection Plays an Essential Role in Explaining Human Cooperation'". Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 39, 34–35.

(2014) O. Mascaro & O. Morin, Gullible's Travel: How honest and trustful children become vigilant communicators. in L. Robinson & S. Einav (eds.), Trust and Skepticism: Children's Selective Learning From Testimony, Psychology Press, pp. 69-83.

(2014) "Why cultural transmission is selective and cost-sensitive, and what difference it makes" in C.Pléh, P. Richerson & G. Csibra eds., Naturalistic Approaches to Culture, Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, pp. 89-101.

(2013) "Three ways of misunderstanding the power of rules" M. Schmitz, B. Kobow & H.-B. Schmidt (éds.), The Background of Social Reality, pp. 185-201.

(2012) "Why cheap and ambiguous signals may serve diplomacy better than credible commitments" Cliodynamics: the journal of theoretical and mathematical history, 3(1):201-204.

(2011) "When does psychology drive culture?" In E. Slingerland & M. Collard (Eds.), Creating consilience : integrating science and the humanities, p. 179-193. Cambridge, MA : Oxford University Press.

(2011) Olivier Morin and Christophe Heintz "The specificity of human signals eludes the semiotic framework (Comment on Paul Kockelman's Biosemiosis paper)", Current Anthropology, 52(5), pp. 732-733.

Book reviews

(2019) A review of P. Boyer, Minds Make Societies. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

(2014) A review of P. Déléage, Inventer l’Écriture & Le Geste et l’Écriture. Social Anthropology, 20, 1, pp. 122-123.

(2013) A review of A. Arléo & J. Delalande, Cultures Enfantines, Folklore, 124(1), pp. 116-117.

(2012) A review of G. Jones, Trade of the Tricks: Inside the magician's craft. Social Anthropology, 20, 3, pp. 348-349.

Open data

(2015) Online data for 'Centuries of Fun: The fate of 103 games from Rabelais' Gargantua' (appendix in O. Morin, How Traditions Live And Die, Oxford University Press, to appear in 2015). These data are an attempt to synthesise the literature that tracks down the games in a list of 217 published by Rabelais in his Gargantua (1534), and document their trajectory through time.

I had a blog at the International Cognition and Culture Institute.

Publications in French


(2018) O. Morin & P. Déléage eds. Écritures. Terrain: Anthropologie et Sciences Humaines, n° 70.

(2011) Comment les traditions naissent et meurent — La transmission culturelle. Paris, Éditions Odile Jacob.


(2019) "L'imitation", in Gloria Origi (dir.), Dictionnaire des Passions Sociales, PUF. (Preliminary version.)

(2019) "Le don et l'alliance dans l'évolution sociale". Actes du colloque de Cerisy "Moralité et Cognition".

(2019) H. Viciana, F. Cova, N. Baumard, & Morin, O. De la coopération à la culture. In La Cognition : Du neurone à la société, édité par Collins, T., Andler, D., & Tallon- Baudry, C. Paris: Gallimard, pp. 563–597

(2018) O. Morin & P. Déléage. Écritures recyclées. Terrain: Anthropologie et Sciences Humaines, 70: 5–19.

(2018) O. Morin, Commentaire sur Isabelle Olivieri, « Enjeux contemporains en biologie de l’évolution ». In Problèmes théoriques et pratiques en biologie évolutionniste, edité par T. Martin. Nancy: Presses Universitaires de Franche- Comté, pp. 87–93.

(2014) "Comment la psychologie pourrait être utile aux historiens". Tracés : revue de sciences humaines, special issue 'Traduire/Introduire', pp. 139-149.

(2013) "Les équivoques du rire", introduction to a special issue on anthropologies of laughter. Terrain, 61 : pp. 4-15.

(2012) "Qu'est-ce que le naturalisme ?" Sociologies, Jan. 2012.

(2011) Olivier Mascaro and Olivier Morin "L'éveil du mensonge" Terrain n°57, pp. 20-35 (Libération interview).

(2010) "Pourquoi les enfants ont-ils des traditions ?" Terrain n° 55, pp. 10-27.

(2010) N. Baumard and O. Morin "Les théories évolutionnistes de la religion" in F. Thomas, T. Lefevre et M. Raymond (eds.) Biologie évolutive. Paris, De Boeck.

(2010) "L'imitation" in F. Thomas, T. Lefevre et M. Raymond (eds.) Biologie évolutive. Paris, De Boeck.

(2010) Tout ce qui est excessif... Review of Nassim Taleb, Force et fragilité (nonfiction.fr).

(2009) "Y a-t-il des règles constitutives ?" Tracés : revue de sciences sociales, n° 17, pp. 109-125 (critique du numéro).

(2009) “La psychiatrie darwinienne” in van der Hernst, J.-B. et Mercier, H. eds., Darwin en tête ! Évolution et Cognition, Grenoble, Presses Universitaires de Grenoble, 2009, pp. 35-66 (see here for a review).

(2008) "La confusion des sensations : expliquer le hard core" Terrain, n° 49, pp. 107-122.