Since the emergence of our species at least, natural selection based on genetic variation has been replaced by culture as the major driving force in human evolution. It has made us what we are today, by ratcheting up cultural innovations, promoting new cognitive skills, rewiring brain networks, and even shifting gene distributions. Adopting an evolutionary perspective can therefore be highly informative for cognitive science in several ways: It encourages us to ask grand questions about the origins and ramifications of our (...) cognitive abilities; it equips us with the means to investigate, explain, and understand key dimensions of cognition; and it allows us to recognize the continued and ubiquitous workings of culture and evolution in everyday instances of cognitive behavior. Taking advantage of this reorientation presupposes a shift in focus, though, from human cognition as a general, homogenous phenomenon to the appreciation of cultural diversity in cognition as an invaluable source of data. (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)
A recent article (Núñez et al., 2019) claims that cognitive science, while starting off as a multidisciplinary enterprise, has “failed to transition to a mature inter‐disciplinary coherent field.” Two indicators reported in support of this claim target one of the two journals of the Cognitive Science Society, Cognitive Science, depicting cognitive science as an increasingly monodisciplinary subfield which is dominated by psychology. With a focus on the society's other journal, Topics in Cognitive Science, the present commentary reveals a greater degree (...) of interdisciplinarity and discusses the relative values of diversity and integration for the field. (shrink)
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)
BackgroundFunctional neurodiagnostics could allow researchers and clinicians to distinguish more accurately between the unresponsive wakefulness syndrome and the minimally conscious state. It remains unclear how it informs surrogate decision-making.ObjectiveTo explore how the next of kin of patients with disorders of consciousness interpret the results of a functional neurodiagnostics measure and how/why their interpretations influence their attitudes towards medical decisions.Methods and SampleWe conducted problem-centered interviews with seven next of kin of patients with DOC who had undergone a functional HD-EEG examination at (...) a neurological rehabilitation center in Germany. The examination included an auditory oddball paradigm and a motor imagery task to detect hidden awareness. We analyzed the interview transcripts using structuring qualitative content analysis.ResultsRegardless of the diagnostic results, all participants were optimistic of the patients’ meaningful recovery. We hypothesize, that participants deal with the results of examinations according to their belief system. Thus, an unfavorable evaluation of the patient’s state had the potential to destabilize the participant’s belief system. To re-stabilize or to prevent the destabilization of their belief system, participants used different strategies. Participants accepted a “positive” HD-EEG result since it stabilized their belief system.ConclusionWe hypothesize, that a group of next of kin of patients with DOC deals with functional neurodiagnostics results on the basis of the result’s value and their high hope that the patient will recover meaningfully. A psychological mechanism seems to moderate the impact of functional neurodiagnostics on surrogate treatment decisions. (shrink)
We begin our commentary by summarizing the commonalities and differences in cognitive phenomena across cultures, as found by the seven papers of this topic. We then assess the commonalities and differences in how our various authors have approached the study of cognitive diversity, and speculate on the need for, and potential of, cross-disciplinary collaboration.
Beller, Bender, & Jordan [Intro]. Which factors have triggered, constrained, or shaped the course of cognitive evolution is a question of key interest to cognitive science. The topic introduced here highlights the relevance of culture as a driving force in this process. It provides an overview of current empirical and theoretical work leading this field, and it investigates the potential for integrating multiple perspectives across several timescales and levels of analysis.
Cognitive science thrives on the diversity of its (sub‐)disciplines, and topiCS is the ideal journal for bringing the diversity to bear. In this welcome address as its incoming Executive Editor, I outline my view of the journal and my vision for how to sustain its inviting and integrative power.
The domain of numbers provides a paradigmatic case for investigating interactions of culture, language, and cognition: Numerical competencies are considered a core domain of knowledge, and yet the development of specifically human abilities presupposes cultural and linguistic input by way of counting sequences. These sequences constitute systems with distinct structural properties, the cross-linguistic variability of which has implications for number representation and processing. Such representational effects are scrutinized for two types of verbal numeration systems—general and object-specific ones—that were in parallel (...) use in several Oceanic languages. The analysis indicates that the object-specific systems outperform the general systems with respect to counting and mental arithmetic, largely due to their regular and more compact representation. What these findings reveal on cognitive diversity, how the conjectures involved speak to more general issues in cognitive science, and how the approach taken here might help to bridge the gap between anthropology and other cognitive sciences is discussed in the conclusion. (shrink)
Anthropology and the other cognitive sciences currently maintain a troubled relationship. What could rapprochement look like, and how could it be achieved? The seven main articles of this topic present anthropological or anthropologically inspired cross-cultural research on a diverse set of cognitive domains. They serve as an existence proof that not only do synergies abound across anthropology and the other cognitive sciences, but that they are worth achieving.
Mangarevan traditionally contained two numeration systems: a general one, which was highly regular, decimal, and extraordinarily extensive; and a specific one, which was restricted to specific objects, based on diverging counting units, and interspersed with binary steps. While most of these characteristics are shared by numeration systems in related languages in Oceania, the binary steps are unique. To account for these characteristics, this article draws on—and tries to integrate—insights from anthropology, archeology, linguistics, psychology, and cognitive science more generally. The analysis (...) of mental arithmetic with these systems reveals that both types of systems entailed cognitive advantages and served important functions in the cultural context of their application. How these findings speak to more general questions revolving around the theoretical models and evolutionary trajectory of numerical cognition will be discussed in the. (shrink)
Clarke and Beck's defense of the theoretical construct “approximate number system” is flawed in serious ways – from biological misconceptions to mathematical naïveté. The authors misunderstand behavioral/psychological technical concepts, such as numerosity and quantical cognition, which they disdain as “exotic.” Additionally, their characterization of rational numbers is blind to the essential role of symbolic reference in the emergence of number.
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.
In their recent paper on “Challenges in mathematical cognition”, Alcock and colleagues (Alcock et al. . Challenges in mathematical cognition: A collaboratively-derived research agenda. Journal of Numerical Cognition, 2, 20-41) defined a research agenda through 26 specific research questions. An important dimension of mathematical cognition almost completely absent from their discussion is the cultural constitution of mathematical cognition. Spanning work from a broad range of disciplines – including anthropology, archaeology, cognitive science, history of science, linguistics, philosophy, and psychology – we (...) argue that for any research agenda on mathematical cognition the cultural dimension is indispensable, and we propose a set of exemplary research questions related to it. (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)
Due to improvements in medicine, the figures of patients with disorders of consciousness (DoC) are increasing. Diagnostics of DoC and prognostication of rehabilitation outcome is challenging but necessary to evaluate recovery potential and to decide on treatment options. Such decisions should be made by doctors and patients’ surrogates based on medico-ethical principles. Meeting information needs and communicating effectively with caregivers as the patients´ most common surrogate-decision makers is crucial, and challenging when novel tech-nologies are introduced. This qualitative study aims to (...) explore information needs of informal DoC caregivers, how they manage the obtained information and their perceptions and experiences with caregiver-physician communication in facilities that implemented innovative neurodiagnostics studies. In 2021, we conducted semi-structured interviews with nine caregivers of clinically stable DoC patients in two rehabilitation centers in Italy and Germany. Participants were selected based on consecutive purposeful sampling. Caregivers were recruited at the facilities after written informed consent. All interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim and translated. For analysis, we used reflexive thematic analysis according to Braun & Clarke (2006). Caregivers experienced the conversations emotionally, generally based on the value of the information provided. They reported to seek positive information, comfort and empathy with-in the communication of results of examinations. They needed detailed information to gain a deep understanding and a clear picture of their loved-one’s condition. The results suggest a mismatch between the perspectives of caregivers and the perspectives of medical profession-als, and stress the need for more elaborate approaches to the communication of results of neu-rodiagnostics studies. (shrink)
Evidence of cultural influences on cognition is accumulating, but untangling these cultural influences from one another or from non-cultural influences has remained a challenging task. As between-group differences are neither a sufficient nor a necessary indicator of cultural impact, cross-cultural comparisons in isolation are unable to furnish any cogent conclusions. This shortfall can be compensated by taking a diachronic perspective that focuses on the role of culture for the emergence and evolution of our cognitive abilities. Three strategies for reconstructing early (...) human cognition are presented: the chaîne opératoire approach and its extension to brain-imaging studies, large-scale extrapolations, and phylogenetic comparative methods. While these strategies are reliant on our understanding of present-day cognition, they conversely also have the potential to advance this understanding in fundamental ways. (shrink)
Our recent publication in Neuroethics re-constructed the perspectives of family caregivers of patients with disorders of consciousness on functional neurodiagnostics. Two papers criticized some of our methodological decisions and commented on some conclusions. In this commentary, we would like to further explain our methodological decisions. Despite the limitations of our findings, which we readily acknowledged, we continue to think they entail valid hypotheses that need further investigation. We conclude that some caregivers with high hopes for the recovery of their loved (...) ones with DOC will most likely not consider results of functional neuroimaging as guiding information for treatment decisions, despite efforts taken to deliver information to them. Caregivers of that type might argue that such test-results are not a reliable source of information for the judgement of whether their loved one is likely going to recover or not. We introduce the concept of epistemic beliefs to formulate this hypothesis and suggest that future qualitative studies in this area should be aware of such beliefs when investigating the effects of functional neurodiagnostics on knowledge communication and shared decision making for patients with DOC. (shrink)
Speakers of English frequently associate location in space with valence, as in moving up and down the “social ladder.” If such an association also holds for the sagittal axis, an object “in front of” another object would be evaluated more positively than the one “behind.” Yet how people conceptualize relative locations depends on which frame of reference (FoR) they adopt—and hence on cross‐linguistically diverging preferences. What is conceptualized as “in front” in one variant of the relative FoR (e.g., translation) is (...) “behind” under another variant (reflection), and vice versa. Do such diverging conceptualizations of an object's location also lead to diverging evaluations? In two studies employing an implicit association test, we demonstrate, first, that speakers of German, Chinese, and Japanese indeed evaluate the object “in front of” another object more positively than the one “behind.” Second, and crucially, the reversal of which object is conceptualized as “in front” involves a corresponding reversal of valence, suggesting an impact of linguistically imparted FoR preferences on evaluative processes. (shrink)
Tomasello argues in the target article that, in generalizing the concrete obligations originating from interdependent collaboration to one's entire cultural group, humans become “ultra-cooperators.” But are all human populations cooperative in similar ways? Based on cross-cultural studies and my own fieldwork in Polynesia, I argue that cooperation varies along several dimensions, and that the underlying sense of obligation is culturally modulated.