Culture and modularity

In Peter Carruthers, Stephen Laurence & Stephen P. Stich (eds.), The Innate Mind: Culture and Cognition (2006)
Abstract
Members of a human group are bound with one another by multiple flows of information. (Here we use “information” in a broad sense that includes not only the content of people’s knowledge, but also that of their beliefs, assumptions, fictions, rules, norms, skills, maps, images, and so on.) This information is materially realized in the mental representations of the people, and in their public productions, that is, their cognitively guided behaviors and the enduring material traces of these behaviors. Mentally represented information is transmitted from individuals to individuals through public productions. Public representations such as speech, gestures, writing, or pictures are a special type of public productions, the function of which is to communicate a content. Public representations play a major role in information transmission. Much information, however, is communicated implicitly, that is, without being publicly represented. Information can also be transmitted without being properly speaking communicated, not even implicitly, as when one individual acquires a skill by observing and imitating the behavior of others. Most information transmitted among humans is about local and transient circumstances, and is not transmitted beyond these. Some information of more general relevance, however, is repeatedly transmitted, and propagates throughout the group. Talk of “culture” (whatever the preferred definition or theory of culture) is about this widely distributed information and about its material realizations inside people’s mind and in their common environment (see Sperber 1996). One can study cultural phenomena in two main ways. One can interpret them, that is, try and make their contents intelligible to people of another culture, or more intelligible to members of the culture in which these phenomena occurs, as do anthropologists and historians. One may also try and explain causally how these cultural phenomena emerge, stabilize and evolve..
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