Cognitive instincts versus cognitive gadgets: A fallacy

Mind and Language 34 (4):540-550 (2019)
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The main thesis of Heyes' book is that all of the domain-specific learning mechanisms that make the human mind so different from the minds of other animals are culturally created and culturally acquired gadgets. The only innate differences are some motivational tweaks, enhanced capacities for associative learning, and enhanced executive function abilities. But Heyes' argument depends on contrasting cognitive gadgets with cognitive instincts, which are said to be innately specified. This ignores what has for some years been the mainstream nativist/anti-empiricist view, which commits only to partially specified learning systems that become elaborated and built through domain-specific learning.



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Aida Roige
University of Maryland, College Park (PhD)