Anthropology and the other cognitive science (CS) subdisciplines currently maintain a troubled relationship. With a debate in topiCS we aim at exploring the prospects for improving this relationship, and our introduction is intended as a catalyst for this debate. In order to encourage a frank sharing of perspectives, our comments will be deliberately provocative. Several challenges for a successful rapprochement are identified, encompassing the diverging paths that CS and anthropology have taken in the past, the degree of compatibility between (1) (...) CS and (2) anthropology with regard to methodology and (3) research strategies, (4) the importance of anthropology for CS, and (5) the need for disciplinary diversity. Given this set of challenges, a reconciliation seems unlikely to follow on the heels of good intentions alone. (shrink)
This conclusion of the debate on anthropology’s role in cognitive science provides some clarifications and an overview of emergent themes. It also lists, as cases of good practice, some examples of productive cross-disciplinary collaboration that evince a forward momentum in the relationship between anthropology and the other cognitive sciences.
The cognitive appraisal of an event is crucial for the elicitation and differentiation of emotions, and causal attributions are an integral part of this process. In an interdisciplinary project comparing Tonga and Germany, we examined how cultural differences in attribution tendencies affect emotion assessment and elicitation. Data on appraising causality and responsibility and on emotional responses were collected through questionnaires based on experimentally designed vignettes, and were related to culture-specific values, norms, and the prevailing self-concept. The experimental data support our (...) hypothesis that—driven by culturally defined self-concepts and corresponding attribution tendencies—members of the two cultures cognitively appraise events in diverging manners and consequently differ in their emotional responses. Ascription of responsibility to self and/or circumstances, in line with a more interdependent self-concept, co-varies with higher ratings of shame, guilt and sadness, whereas ascription of responsibility to others, in line with a less interdependent self-concept, co-varies with higher ratings of anger. These findings support the universal contingency hypothesis and help to explain cultural differences in this domain on a fine-grained level. (shrink)
In the cognitive sciences, causal cognition in the physical domain has featured as a core research topic, but the impact of culture has been rarely ever explored. One case in point for a topic on which this neglect is pronounced is the pervasive tendency of people to consider one of two (equally important) entities as more important for bringing about an effect. In order to scrutinize how robust such tendencies are across cultures, we asked German and Tongan participants to assign (...) prime causality in nine symmetric settings. For most settings, strong asymmetries in both cultures were found, but not always in the same direction, depending on the task content. This indicates that causal asymmetries, while indeed being a robust phenomenon across cultures, are also subject to culture-specific concepts. Moreover, the asymmetries were found to be modulated by figure-ground relations, but not by marking agency. (shrink)
To what extent is cognition affected by culture? And how might cognitive science profit from an intensified collaboration with anthropology in exploring this issue? In order to answer these questions, we will first give a brief description of different perspectives on cognition, one that prevails in most cognitive sciences—particularly in cognitive psychology—and one in anthropology. Three basic assumptions of cognitive science regarding the separability of content and process, the context-independence of processing, and the culture-independence of processing will then be discussed. (...) We argue that these assumptions need to be questioned and scrutinized cross-culturally. A thorough examination of these issues would profit considerably from collaboration with anthropologists, not only by enabling deeper insight into the cultures under scrutiny, but also by synergistic effects that would allow for a more comprehensive understanding of human cognition. (shrink)
This paper reviews the uneven history of the relationship between Anthropology and Cognitive Science over the past 30 years, from its promising beginnings, followed by a period of disaffection, on up to the current context, which may lay the groundwork for reconsidering what Anthropology and (the rest of) Cognitive Science have to offer each other. We think that this history has important lessons to teach and has implications for contemporary efforts to restore Anthropology to its proper place within Cognitive Science. (...) The recent upsurge of interest in the ways that thought may shape and be shaped by action, gesture, cultural experience, and language sets the stage for, but so far has not fully accomplished, the inclusion of Anthropology as an equal partner. (shrink)
Conditional promises and threats are speech acts that are used to manipulate other people's behaviour. Studies on human reasoning typically use propositional logic to analyse what people infer from such inducements. While this approach is sufficient to uncover conceptual features of inducements, it fails to explain them. To overcome this limitation, we propose a multilevel analysis integrating motivational, linguistic, deontic, behavioural, and emotional aspects. Commonalities and differences between conditional promises and threats on various levels were examined in two experiments. The (...) first shows that both types of inducements are understood as being complementary on the linguistic level, but not reversible, due to the specific temporal order of their actions. In addition, it gives a first assessment of emotional reactions. The second experiment investigated the novel question of whether complementary promises and threats, despite semantic differences, both imply an obligation to cooperate on the deontic level. The data corroborate this hypothesis, and they support various appraisal-theoretical assumptions on the elicitation of emotions. They also reveal that content affects not only the attribution of emotions, but also the deontic interpretation. (shrink)