Helen Wasielewski

wasielewski helen_465wVisiting Research Associate, Anthropology Department

I am interested in understanding the relationship between socially learned, shared information (culture) and human behavior.

For my dissertation project, I evaluated a key hypothesis about a trait that makes us uniquely human: I investigated why humans alone are able to develop complex technologies, why we alone appear to be able to "stand on the shoulders of giants" in terms of building up innovations over time. To test this idea, I developed a novel experimental task, in which I asked participants to build weight-bearing devices from weaving reed and modeling clay. I then evaluated how well groups improved their devices under different social learning conditions, in order to determine if imitation is required to generate cumulation. I report the central results from this research in Human Nature (accepted), and I am also revising an additional paper that I expect to submit by late Fall, 2013.

I am also interested in the relationships between culture, biology, behavior, and health, with a focus on health disparities, chronic health conditions, and issues in maternal and child health. I am currently involved in collaborative work on the effects of co-sleeping on the role of fathers in their children's lives. This project draws from the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample, a large global dataset created from ethnographic research reports. To date, I have presented these results at global health fair in the form of a co-authored poster (with Sarah Wise, University of Bremen), and I am working on a co-authored paper with Bria Dunham, Mercer University, for submission by spring, 2014.

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Cronk, L., & Wasielewski, H. (2008). An unfamiliar social norm rapidly produces framing effects in an economic game. Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, 6, 283-308.

Wasielewski, H. (forthcoming). Imitation is necessary for cumulative cultural evolution in an unfamiliar, opaque task. Human Nature : An Interdisciplinary Biosocial Perspective.

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