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  1. Scott Atran (2014). Martyrdom's Would-Be Myth Buster. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 37 (4):362-363.
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  2. Scott Atran (2013). From Mutualism to Moral Transcendence. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 36 (1):81-82.
    Baumard et al. attribute morality to a naturally selected propensity to share costs and benefits of cooperation fairly. But how does mundane mutualism relate to transcendent notions of morality critical to creating cultures and civilizations? Humans often make their greatest exertions for an idea they form of their group. Primary social identity is bounded by sacred values, which drive individuals to promote their group through non-rational commitment to actions independently of likely risks and rewards.
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  3. Scott Atran (2012). Parasite Stress is Not so Critical to the History of Religions or Major Modern Group Formations. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 35 (2):79-80.
    Fincher & Thornhill's (F&T's) central hypothesis is that strong in-group norms were formed in part to foster parochial social alliances so as to enable cultural groups to adaptively respond to parasite stress. Applied to ancestral hominid environments, the story fits with evolutionary theory and the fragmentary data available on early hominid social formations and their geographical distributions. Applied to modern social formations, however, the arguments and inferences from data are problematic.
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  4. Scott Atran & Joseph Henrich (2010). P1: Qpu biotA00018-Atran biot. Cls April 15, 2010 11: 8. Biological Theory 5:1.
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  5. Scott Atran & Joseph Henrich (2010). The Evolution of Religion: How Cognitive By-Products, Adaptive Learning Heuristics, Ritual Displays, and Group Competition Generate Deep Commitments to Prosocial Religions. Biological Theory 5 (1):18-30.
    Understanding religion requires explaining why supernatural beliefs, devotions, and rituals are both universal and variable across cultures, and why religion is so often associated with both large-scale cooperation and enduring group conflict. Emerging lines of research suggest that these oppositions result from the convergence of three processes. First, the interaction of certain reliably developing cognitive processes, such as our ability to infer the presence of intentional agents, favors—as an evolutionary by-product—the spread of certain kinds of counterintuitive concepts. Second, participation in (...)
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  6. Scott Atran (2006). The Scientific Landscape of Religion: Evolution, Culture, and Cognition. In Philip Clayton & Zachory Simpson (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science. Oxford University Press. 407--429.
    Accession Number: ATLA0001712240; Hosting Book Page Citation: p 407-429.; Physical Description: graphs, tables ; Language(s): English; General Note: Bibliography: p 426-429.; Issued by ATLA: 20130825; Publication Type: Essay.
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  7. Gérard Fussman & Scott Atran (eds.) (2006). Croyance, Raison Et Déraison: Colloque de Rentrée 2005. Jacob.
    Le heurt entre croyances anciennes, découvertes scientifiques et pratiques rationnelles est souvent une guerre dont les victimes se comptent par milliers ou millions : malades mal soignés ou atteints par des épidémies qu'on laisse se ...
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  8. Douglas L. Medin, Norbert O. Ross, Scott Atran, Douglas Cox, John Coley, Julia B. Proffitt & Sergey Blok (2006). Folkbiology of Freshwater Fish. Cognition 99 (3):237-273.
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  9. Ara Norenzayan, Scott Atran, Jason Faulkner & Mark Schaller (2006). Memory and Mystery: The Cultural Selection of Minimally Counterintuitive Narratives. Cognitive Science 30 (3):531-553.
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  10. Scott Atran (2005). Adaptationism for Human Cognition: Strong, Spurious, or Weak? Mind and Language 20 (1):39-67.
    Strong adaptationists explore complex organic design as taskspecific adaptations to ancestral environments. This strategy seems best when there is evidence of homology. Weak adaptationists don't assume that complex organic (including cognitive and linguistic) functioning necessarily or primarily represents taskspecific adaptation. This approach to cognition resembles physicists' attempts to deductively explain the most facts with fewest hypotheses. For certain domainspecific competencies (folkbiology) strong adaptationism is useful but not necessary to research. With grouplevel belief systems (religion) strong adaptationism degenerates into spurious notions (...)
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  11. Scott Atran (2005). In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion. OUP USA.
    This ambitious, interdisciplinary book seeks to explain the origins of religion using our knowledge of the evolution of cognition. A cognitive anthropologist and psychologist, Scott Atran argues that religion is a by-product of human evolution just as the cognitive intervention, cultural selection, and historical survival of religion is an accommodation of certain existential and moral elements that have evolved in the human condition.
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  12. Scott Atran (2005). Strong Versus Weak Adaptationism in Cognition and Language. In Peter Carruthers, Stephen Laurence & Stephen Stich (eds.), The Innate Mind: Structure and Contents. New York: Oxford University Press New York.
  13. Scott Atran & Ara Norenzayan (2004). Religion's Evolutionary Landscape: Counterintuition, Commitment, Compassion, Communion. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 (6):713-730.
    Religion is not an evolutionary adaptation per se, but a recurring cultural by-product of the complex evolutionary landscape that sets cognitive, emotional, and material conditions for ordinary human interactions. Religion exploits only ordinary cognitive processes to passionately display costly devotion to counterintuitive worlds governed by supernatural agents. The conceptual foundations of religion are intuitively given by task-specific panhuman cognitive domains, including folkmechanics, folkbiology, and folkpsychology. Core religious beliefs minimally violate ordinary notions about how the world is, with all of its (...)
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  14. Scott Atran & Ara Norenzayan (2004). Why Minds Create Gods: Devotion, Deception, Death, and Arational Decision Making. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 (6):754-770.
    The evolutionary landscape that canalizes human thought and behavior into religious beliefs and practices includes naturally selected emotions, cognitive modules, and constraints on social interactions. Evolutionary by-products, including metacognitive awareness of death and possibilities for deception, further channel people into religious paths. Religion represents a community's costly commitment to a counterintuitive world of supernatural agents who manage people's existential anxieties. Religious devotion, though not an adaptation, informs all cultures and most people.
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  15. Nicola Knight, Paulo Sousa, Justin L. Barrett & Scott Atran (2004). Children's Attributions of Beliefs to Humans and God: Cross‐Cultural Evidence. Cognitive Science 28 (1):117-126.
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  16. Scott Atran (2002). A Metamodule for Conceptual Integration: Language or Theory of Mind? Behavioral and Brain Sciences 25 (6):674-675.
    Those who assume domain specificity or conceptual modularity face Fodor’ Paradox (the problem of “combinatorial explosion”). One strategy involves postulating a metamodule that evolved to take as input the output of all other specialized conceptual modules, then integrates these outputs into cross-domain thoughts. It’ difficult to see whether this proposed metamodular capacity stems from language or theory of mind.
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  17. Scott Atran (2002). Modular and Cultural Factors in Biological Understanding: An Experimental Approach to the Cognitive Basis of Science. In Peter Carruthers, Stephen P. Stich & Michael Siegal (eds.), The Cognitive Basis of Science. Cambridge University Press. 41--72.
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  18. Scott Atran (2002). Modest Adaptationism: Muddling Through Cognition and Language. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 25 (4):504-506.
    Strong adaptationists would explain complex organic designs as specific adaptations to particular ancestral environments. Weak adaptationists don't assume that complex organic functioning represents evolutionary design in the sense of niche-specific adaptation. For some domain-specific competencies (folkbiology) strong adaptationism is useful, not necessary. With group-level belief systems (religion), strong adaptationism can become spurious pseudo-adaptationism. In other cases (language), weak adaptationism proves productive.
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  19. Scott Atran, Douglas I. Medin & Norbert Ross (2002). Thinking About Biology. Modular Constraints on Categorization and Reasoning in the Everyday Life of Americans, Maya, and Scientists. Mind and Society 3 (2):31-63.
    This essay explores the universal cognitive bases of biological taxonomy and taxonomic inference using cross-cultural experimental work with urbanized Americans and forest-dwelling Maya Indians. A universal, essentialist appreciation of generic species appears as the causal foundation for the taxonomic arrangement of biodiversity, and for inference about the distribution of causally-related properties that underlie biodiversity. Universal folkbiological taxonomy is domain-specific: its structure does not spontaneously or invariably arise in other cognitive domains, like substances, artifacts or persons. It is plausibly an innately-determined (...)
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  20. Jeremy N. Bailenson, Michael S. Shum, Scott Atran, Douglas L. Medin & John D. Coley (2002). A Bird's Eye View: Biological Categorization and Reasoning Within and Across Cultures. Cognition 84 (1):1-53.
    Many psychological studies of categorization and reasoning use undergraduates to make claims about human conceptualization. Generalizability of findings to other populations is often assumed but rarely tested. Even when comparative studies are conducted, it may be challenging to interpret differences. As a partial remedy, in the present studies we adopt a 'triangulation strategy' to evaluate the ways expertise and culturally different belief systems can lead to different ways of conceptualizing the biological world. We use three groups (US bird experts, US (...)
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  21. Woo-Kyoung Ahn, Charles Kalish, Susan A. Gelman, Douglas L. Medin, Christian Luhmann, Scott Atran, John D. Coley & Patrick Shafto (2001). Why Essences Are Essential in the Psychology of Concepts. Cognition 82 (1):59-69.
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  22. Scott Atran (2001). The Trouble with Memes: Inference Versus Imitation in Cultural Creation. Human Nature 12 (4):351-381.
    Memes are hypothetical cultural units passed on by imitation; although nonbiological, they undergo Darwinian selection like genes. Cognitive study of multimodular human minds undermines memetics: unlike in genetic replication, high-fidelity transmission of cultural information is the exception, not the rule. Constant, rapid 'mutation' of information during communication generates endlessly varied creations that nevertheless adhere to modular input conditions. The sort of cultural information most susceptible to modular processing is that most readily acquired by children, most easily transmitted across individuals, most (...)
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  23. Scott Atran (1999). Itzaj Maya Folkbiological Taxonomy: Cognitive Universals and Cultural Particulars. In D. Medin & S. Atran (eds.), Folkbiology. Mit Press. 119--213.
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  24. John D. Coley, Douglas L. Medin, Julia Beth Proffitt, Elizabeth Lynch & Scott Atran (1999). Inductive Reasoning in Folkbiological Thought. In D. Medin & S. Atran (eds.), Folkbiology. Mit Press. 211-12.
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  25. Scott Atran (1998). Folk Biology and the Anthropology of Science: Cognitive Universals and Cultural Particulars. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21 (4):547-569.
    This essay in the is about how cognition constrains culture in producing science. The example is folk biology, whose cultural recurrence issues from the very same domain-specific cognitive universals that provide the historical backbone of systematic biology. Humans everywhere think about plants and animals in highly structured ways. People have similar folk-biological taxonomies composed of essence-based, species-like groups and the ranking of species into lower- and higher-order groups. Such taxonomies are not as arbitrary in structure and content, nor as variable (...)
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  26. Scott Atran (1998). Taxonomic Ranks, Generic Species, and Core Memes. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21 (4):593-604.
    The target article contains a number of distinct but interrelated claims about the cognitive nature of folk biology based in part on cross-cultural work with urbanized Americans and forest-dwelling Maya Indians. Folk biology consists universally of a ranked taxonomy centered on essence-based generic species. This taxonomy is domain-specific, perhaps an innately determined evolutionary adaptation. Folk biology also plays a special role in cultural evolution in general, and in the development of Western biological science in particular. Even in our culture, however, (...)
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  27. John D. Coley, Douglas L. Medin & Scott Atran (1997). Does Rank Have its Privilege? Inductive Inferences Within Folkbiological Taxonomies. Cognition 64 (1):73-112.
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  28. Scott Atran (1989). Basic Conceptual Domains. Mind and Language 4 (1-2):7-16.
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  29. Scott Atran (1987). Origin of the Species and Genus Concepts: An Anthropological Perspective. [REVIEW] Journal of the History of Biology 20 (2):195 - 279.
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  30. Scott Atran (1987). Ordinary Constraints on the Semantics of Living Kinds: A Commonsense Alternative to Recent Treatments of Natural-Object Terms. Mind and Language 2 (1):27-63.
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  31. Scott Atran (1985). Pre-Theoretical Aspects of Aristotelian Definition and Classification of Animals: The Case for Common Sense. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 16 (2):113-163.
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