Conspiracy theories (CTs) are widespread ways by which people make sense of unsettling or disturbing cultural events. Belief in CTs is often connected to problematic consequences, such as decreased engagement with conventional political action or even political extremism, so understanding the psychological and social qualities of CTs belief is important. CTs have often been understood to be “monological”, displaying the tendency for belief in one conspiracy theory to be correlated with belief in (many) others. Explanations of monologicality invoke a nomothetical (...) or “closed” mindset whereby mutually supporting beliefs based on mistrust of official explanations are used to interpret public events as conspiracies, independent of the facts about those events (which they may ignore or deny). But research on monologicality offers little discussion of the content of monological beliefs and reasoning from the standpoint of the CT believers. This is due in part to the “access problem” (Wood & Douglas, 2015): CT believers are averse to being researched because they often distrust researchers and what they appear to represent. We used several strategies to address the access problem, and investigated the symbolic resources underlying CTs by reconstructing a conspiracy worldview - a set of beliefs held by CT believers about important dimensions of ontology, epistemology, and human agency. To do this, we analysed media documents, conducted field observation, and engaged in semi-structured interviews,. We describe six main dimensions of a conspiracy worldview: Views of the nature of reality, the self, the outgroup, the ingroup, action, and the future. We also describe a typology of five types of CT believers, which vary according to their positions on each of these dimensions. Our findings converge with prior explorations of CT beliefs but also revealed novel aspects: A sense of community among CT believers, a highly differentiated representation of the outgroup, a personal journey of conversion, variegated kinds of political action, and optimistic belief in future change. These findings are at odds with the typical image of monological CT believers as paranoid, cynical, anomic and irrational. For many, the CT worldview may rather constitute the ideological underpinning of a nascent pre-figurative social movement. (shrink)
underpinning of the cognitive sciences. I argue, however, that it often fails to provide adequate explanations, in particular in conjunction with competence theories. This failure originates in the idealizations in competence descriptions, which either ?block? the cascade, or produce a successful cascade which fails to explain cognition.
This article presents a detailed formal approach to concepts and concept combination. Sense generation is a competence‐level theory that attempts to respect constraints from the various cognitive sciences, and postulates “quasi‐classical” conceptual structures where attributes receive only one value (but are defeasible and so do not represent necessary and sufficient conditions on category membership) and where classification is binary (but explicitly context‐sensitive). It is also argued that any general theory of concepts must account for “privative” combinations (e.g., stone lion, fake (...) gun, apparent friend) as extreme test‐cases of representational and classificatory flexibility. The approach presented therefore provides a treatment of these combinations. The approach differentiates between the “lexical concept” (the stable information represented in a mental lexicon) which acts as a base from which the various “senses” (flexible contents associated with words and phrases in context, and used in classification) are “generated.” Generation allows nonmonotonicity, so that in different circumstances, different attributes may be defeated or modified. Classification is treated as relative to the perspective adopted, so that a classification acceptable from one perspective may be unacceptable from another, without contradiction. The result is a view that assumes bottom‐up priority in concept combination, where the range of senses generated by bottom‐up rules of combination is tempered by pragmatic‐communicative constraints on classification. An account of the representational and classification behavior of privative combinations is outlined, and the article concludes with a discussion of some of the implications of the approach. (shrink)
The cognitive anthropological approach has provided a powerful means of beginning to understand religious representations. I suggest that two extant approaches, despite their general plausibility, may not accurately characterise the detailed nature of those representations. A major source of this inaccuracy lies in the characterisation of negation of ontological properties, which gives rise to broader questions about their ontological determinacy and counter-intuitiveness. I suggest that a more plausible account may be forthcoming by allowing a more complex approach to the representations, (...) deriving from understanding their nature as concept combinations. Such an account also suggests an alternative approach to the role of deference in religious representations. In sum, the empirical and theoretical implications of a more fine-grained analysis of religious representations suggest a vindication of the cognitive anthropology approach to integrating culture and cognition. (shrink)
The connection between idealizations, competence and multi-level explanations in cognitive psychology is discussed, in response to Patterson's () reply to Franks (). I argue that idealizations are inherent in competence explanations and as a result, such explanations cannot be formulated in the multi-level terms widely used in the cognitive sciences. Patterson's argument was that neither competence nor performance involve idealizations, and, since they are separate 'systems', it is inappropriate to apply a single multi-level explanation to them. I suggest that there (...) is evidence that, although competence and performance are very often explicated in terms of levels of description, both none the less involve idealizations. However, I also suggest that Patterson's argument rests on confounding the demarcation of cognitive explanations with the demarcation of cognitive systems. Hence, even if competence and performance are different levels of a single system, questions concerning idealizations still arise when they are combined in an explanation. (shrink)
This paper discusses some requirements on a folk-psychological, computational account of concepts. Although most psychological views take the folk-psychological stance that concept-possession requires capacities of both representation and classification, such views lack a philosophical context. In contrast, philosophically motivated views stress one of these capacities at the expense of the other. This paper seeks to provide some philosophical motivation for the (folk-) psychological stance. Philosophical and psychological constraints on a computational level account provide the context for evaluating two theses. The (...) first, the Classificatory View, is that concept-possession is constituted by the ability to classify states of the world. I argue, against this view, that to be able to classify, a thinker must also be able to represent the world. The second thesis, the Representational View, is that to possess a concept is constituted by the ability to represent the world. I argue that ascribing this ability is incoherent without ascribing an ability to classify. Hence, a detailed computational specification of concept-possession suggests that the folk-psychological stance is accurate. Philosophical views of concepts, (e.g. Fodor, 1987), adhering to one of the strong theses, whilst adverting to folk-psychological motivations, are thus both insufficiently complex and incoherent. (shrink)
Evolutionary psychology is widely understood as involving an integration of evolutionary theory and cognitive psychology, in which the former promises to revolutionise the latter. In this paper, I suggest some reasons to doubt that the assumptions of evolutionary theory and of cognitive psychology are as directly compatible as is widely assumed. These reasons relate to three different problems of specifying adaptive functions as the basis for characterising cognitive mechanisms: the disjunction problem, the grain problem and the environment problem. Each of (...) these problems can be understood as arising from incommensurate characterisations of the nature and role of 'the environment' in the two approaches. Purported solutions to the problems appear to require detailed information concerning the EEA (environment of evolutionary adaptedness), with the disjunction problem placing the lowest requirement, the environment problem placing the highest requirement, and the grain problem placing an intermediate one. In each case, such information is not likely to be forthcoming, because it may require iterating through successively more distant EEA's with no principled stopping point. This produces a dilemma for evolutionary psychology - either to solve these apparently insoluble problems, or to attempt to avoid them but in doing so forego detailed evolutionary constraints on cognition. (shrink)
We argue that the confusing pattern of evidence concerning colour categorization reported by Saunders & van Brakel is unsurprising. On a perspectival view, categorization may follow semantic or pragmatic attributes. Colour lacks clear semantic attributes; as a result categorization is necessarily pragmatic and context-sensitive. This view of colour categorization helps explain the developmental delay in colour naming.
It is widely mooted that a plausible computational cognitive model should involve both symbolic and connectionist components. However, sound principles for combining these components within a hybrid system are currently lacking; the design of such systems is oftenad hoc. In an attempt to ameliorate this we provide a framework of types of hybrid systems and constraints therein, within which to explore the issues. In particular, we suggest the use of system independent constraints, whose source lies in general considerations about cognitive (...) systems, rather than in particular technological or task-based considerations. We illustrate this through a detailed examination of an interruptibility constraint: handling interruptions is a fundamental facet of cognition in a dynamic world. Aspects of interruptions are delineated, as are their precise expression in symbolic and connectionist systems. We illustrate the interaction of the various constraints from interruptibility in the different types of hybrid systems. The picture that emerges of the relationship between the connectionist and the symbolic within a hybrid system provides for sufficient flexibility and complexity to suggest interesting general implications for cognition, thus vindicating the utility of the framework. (shrink)
Millikan's nondescriptionist approach applies an account of meaning to concepts in terms of designation. The essentialism that provides the principal grounds for rigid designation, however, receives no empirical support from concepts. Whatever the grounding, this view not only faces the problems of rigid designation in theories of meaning, it also calls for a role for pragmatics more consonant with descriptionist theories of concepts.
This paper discusses some widespread but often not fully articulated views concerning the possible roles of biology and evolution in the social sciences. Such views cluster around a set of intuitions that suggest that evolution's role is “ballistic”: it constitutes a starting point for mind that has been, and is, superseded by the role of culture and social construction. An implication is that evolved and the socially constructed aspects of mind are separable and independent, with the latter being the primary (...) driver of mind. I outline four variants of the ballistic view. I then show how current findings and arguments in evolutionary thinking as related to mind contradict those ballistic views. The contrary view—that evolutionary and social factors are interdependent in the generation of social psychological capacities—is proposed as a consequence. This view is able to respect some insights of theories that make ballistic assumptions, whilst avoiding those assumptions. (shrink)
Tomasello's account of the origins and nature of moral obligation rightly emphasises the key roles of social relations and a cooperative sense of “we.” However, we suggest that it overlooks the complexity of those social relations and the resulting prevalence of a divided “we” in moral social groups. We argue that the social identity dynamics that arise can lead to competing obligations in a single group, and this has implications for the evolution of obligation.
Van Gelder presents the dynamical hypothesis as a novel law of qualitative structure to compete with Newell and Simon's (1976) physical symbol systems hypothesis. Unlike Newell and Simon's hypothesis, the dynamical hypothesis fails to provide necessary and sufficient conditions for cognition. Furthermore, imprecision in the statement of the dynamical hypothesis renders it unfalsifiable.
Schyns et al. argue that flexibility in categorisation implies “feature creation.” We argue that this notion is flawed, that flexibility can be explained by combinations over fixed feature sets, and that feature creation would in any case fail to explain categorisation. We suggest that flexibility in categorisation is due to pragmatic factors influencing feature combination, rendering feature creation unnecessary.