Carmen Granito: “The cultural evolution of art styles: how the socio-demographic context shapes the visual arts”

In Former students by jvnf65


Why is it that different ages and different peoples have represented the world in pictures in such different ways? The “riddle of style” is a longstanding question in art history and anthropology.

My project aims to investigate whether and how factors such as demography, intercultural exchanges, social structure and political organisation shape styles of representation and decoration in the arts.

To this end, I draw on cutting-edge theories and methods of cultural evolution, including lab experiments and quantitative analyses of art-historical and ethnographic datasets.

Based on the idea that “Painting is to those who cannot read what letters are to those who can” (Gregory the Great), I am also interested in the dynamics of evolutionary change in verbal languages, writing and graphic systems in general.

I have a multi-disciplinary background in Philosophy (BA hons., Napoli), Semiotics (MA dist., Bologna), Heritage Management (MA dist., Kent/Athens), Social Research Methods (PG Cert., Durham). In my parallel life, I am a cultural heritage blogger.


Granito, C. & Scott-Phillips, T. (2016). An important contribution – but not an amendment – to cultural epidemiology. International Cognition and Culture Institute blog: club/an-important-contribution-but-not-an-amendment-to-cultural-epidemiology

On past projects:

1. Granito, C., Scorolli, C., Borghi, A. M. (2015). Naming a Lego world. The role of language in the acquisition of abstract concepts. PLoS ONE doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0114615.

2. Granito, C. (2013). How to extend linguistic motivationism using words as tools. Versus 117: 71 – 94.

3. Granito, C. (2012). Where are abstract concepts from? Embodiment beyond the body. Rivista Italiana di Filosofia del Linguaggio 5: 84 – 98.

Academic talks & posters

1. Granito, C., Scott-Phillips, Kendal, J., T., Tehrani, J. (2017). Talking pictures: intercultural contact shapes style of pictorial representation. Cultural Evolution Society Conference, Jena, September 2017 (talk).

2. Granito, C., Scott-Phillips, T., Terhani, J. (2017). Social demography and the cultural evolution of art styles. Evolution and Human Behaviour European Association Conference, Paris, April 2017 (poster).

3. Granito, C. (2016b). The evolution of art styles. Culture Conference, Birmingham, June 2016 (poster).

4. Granito, C. (2016). The evolution of art styles: how the socio-demographic context can shape the visual arts. Durham Anthropology Postgraduate Conference, Durham, April 2016 (poster).

Outreach activities

1. High school student workshop (2017): How to explain very abstract and complex science to a non-specialised audience? Make it concrete and hands-on! Open Day visiting students played my Intercultural Pictionary experimental paradigm. They experienced first person the effects of intercultural contact on pictorial representations.

2. Teacher outreach (2017): High school teachers visiting Durham Anthropology Department were proposed my Intercultural Pictionary experimental paradigm as an educational game for their students. 3. Cultural heritage blog: