We propose that the crucial difference between human cognition and that of other species is the ability to participate with others in collaborative activities with shared goals and intentions: shared intentionality. Participation in such activities requires not only especially powerful forms of intention reading and cultural learning, but also a unique motivation to share psychological states with others and unique forms of cognitive representation for doing so. The result of participating in these activities is species-unique forms of (...) class='Hi'>culturalcognition and evolution, enabling everything from the creation and use of linguistic symbols to the construction of social norms and individual beliefs to the establishment of social institutions. In support of this proposal we argue and present evidence that great apes understand the basics of intentional action, but they still do not participate in activities involving joint intentions and attention. Human children's skills of shared intentionality develop gradually during the first 14 months of life as two ontogenetic pathways intertwine: the general ape line of understanding others as animate, goal-directed, and intentional agents; and a species-unique motivation to share emotions, experience, and activities with other persons. The developmental outcome is children's ability to construct dialogic cognitive representations, which enable them to participate in earnest in the collectivity that is human cognition. Key Words: collaboration; cooperation; cultural learning; culture; evolutionary psychology; intentions; shared intentionality; social cognition; social learning; theory of mind; joint attention. (shrink)
We extend Smaldino’s approach to collaboration and social organization in cultural evolution to include cognition. By showing how recent work on emergent group-level cognition can be incorporated within Smaldino’s framework, we extend that framework’s scope to encompass collaborative memory, decision-making, and intelligent action. We argue that beneficial effects arise only in certain forms of cognitive interdependence, in surprisingly fragile conditions.
Everybody knows that humans are cultural animals. Although this fact is universally acknowledged, many opportunities to exploit it are overlooked. In this article, I propose shifting our attention from local examples of extended mind to the cultural-cognitive ecosystems within which human cognition is embedded. I conclude by offering a set of conjectures about the features of cultural-cognitive ecosystems.
The development of modern science has depended strongly on specific features of the cultures involved; however, its results are widely and trans-culturally accepted and applied. The science and technology of electricity provides a particularly interesting example. It emerged as a specific product of post-Renaissance Europe, rooted in the Greek philosophical tradition that encourages explanations of nature in theoretical terms. It did not evolve in China presumably because such encouragement was missing. The trans-cultural acceptance of modern science and technology is (...) postulated to be due, in part, to the common biological dispositions underlying human cognition, with generalizable capabilities of abstract, symbolic and strategic thought. These faculties of the human mind are main prerequisites for dynamic cultural development and differentiation. They appear to have evolved up to a stage of hunters and gatherers perhaps some 100 000 years ago. However, the extent of the correspondence between some constructions of the human mind and the order of nature, as revealed by science, is a late insight of the last centuries. Quantum physics and relativity are particularly impressive examples. (shrink)
Spirit possessions, trance, and other forms of altered states of consciousness are fascinating manifestations of brain states that are often seen as alien or exotic in Western media and discourse. Yet, these experiences are very common for a large number of humans around the world. In this paper we use a predictive processing perspective to examine spirit possession in Taoist rituals in Southern Thailand. These rituals involve tens of thousands of spirit mediums that enter into trance and perform various acts (...) of selfmutilation. These activities can shed new light on how sensory input is modulated and reinterpreted through top-down expectations driven by cultural narratives and frameworks. Our key argument is that, instead of being exotic and different, these states of altered consciousness provide us with powerful insights into how the mind and perception work in a culturally constructed world. Considering the role of culture as providing input into a common human cognitive architecture allows for a deeper understanding of the various facets and expressions of communalities in altered states of consciousness across human populations. (shrink)
Arithmetical cognition is the result of enculturation. On a personal level of analysis, enculturation is a process of structured cultural learning that leads to the acquisition of evolutionarily recent, socio-culturally shaped arithmetical practices. On a sub-personal level, enculturation is realized by learning driven plasticity and learning driven bodily adaptability, which leads to the emergence of new neural circuitry and bodily action patterns. While learning driven plasticity in the case of arithmetical practices is not consistent with modularist theories of (...) mental architecture, it can be enriched by the theory of neural reuse. According to neural reuse, cerebral regions are reused to contribute to multiple neural circuits in functionally constrained ways throughout ontogeny. By hypothesis, learning driven plasticity is complemented by learning driven bodily adaptability, which suggests that there is an interesting functional relationship between finger gnosis, finger counting, and arithmetical practices. The emerging perspective on enculturated arithmetical cognition will be complemented by considerations on associated developmental and acquired disorders, namely developmental dyscalculia and acquired acalculia. The upshot is that we need to take the cerebral, extra-cerebral bodily, and socio-cultural dimensions of enculturation into account in order to arrive at a better understanding of the phylogenetic and ontogenetic conditions of arithmetical cognition. (shrink)
Experimental investigations of cross-cultural music perception and cognition reported during the past decade are described. As globalization and Western music homogenize the world musical environment, it is imperative that diverse music and musical contexts are documented. Processes of music perception include grouping and segmentation, statistical learning and sensitivity to tonal and temporal hierarchies, and the development of tonal and temporal expectations. The interplay of auditory, visual, and motor modalities is discussed in light of synchronization and the way music (...) moves via emotional response. Further research is needed to test deep-rooted psychological assumptions about music cognition with diverse materials and groups in dynamic contexts. Although empirical musicology provides keystones to unlock musical structures and organization, the psychological reality of those theorized structures for listeners and performers, and the broader implications for theories of music perception and cognition, awaits investigation. (shrink)
This paper assesses, from a philosophical point of view, the latest cultural neuroscience results that suggest the traditional interpretation of subject of cognition be essentially reconstructed. We must move from a universalistic interpretation of cognitive process to an interpretation taking into explicit account the socio-cultural context of the subject’s activity, as well as often its biological nature. The principle of cultural and cognitive neurobiological determination of knowledge acquisition is proposed. We claim that subject of cognition (...) is fixed in the historical and cultural context and it neurobiologically determined, and thus classical Kantian transcendentalism should be reconsidered in light of recent neuroscience research. (shrink)
Because human cognition is creative and socially situated, knowledge accumulates, diffuses, and gets applied in new contexts, generating cultural analogs of phenomena observed in population genetics such as adaptation and drift. It is therefore commonly thought that elements of culture evolve through natural selection. However, natural selection was proposed to explain how change accumulates despite lack of inheritance of acquired traits, as occurs with template-mediated replication. It cannot accommodate a process with significant retention of acquired or horizontally (e.g. (...) socially) transmitted traits. Moreover, elements of culture cannot be treated as discrete lineages because they constantly interact and influence one another. It is proposed that what evolves through culture is the mind; ideas and artifacts are merely reflections of its current evolved state. Interacting minds transform (in part) through through a non-Darwinian autopoietic process similar to that by which early life evolved, involving not survival of the fittest but actualization of their potential. (shrink)
Formal models of cultural evolution analyze how cognitive processes combine with social interaction to generate the distributions and dynamics of ‘representations.’ Recently, cognitive anthropologists have criticized such models. They make three points: mental representations are non-discrete, cultural transmission is highly inaccurate, and mental representations are not replicated, but rather are ‘reconstructed’ through an inferential process that is strongly affected by cognitive ‘attractors.’ They argue that it follows from these three claims that: 1) models that assume replication or replicators (...) are inappropriate, 2) selective cultural learning cannot account for stable traditions, and 3) selective cultural learning cannot generate cumulative adaptation. Here we use three formal models to show that even if the premises of this critique are correct, the deductions that have been drawn from them are false. In the rst model, we assume continuously varying representations under the in uence of weak selective transmission and strong attractors. We show that if the attractors are suf ciently strong relative to selective forces, the continuous representation model reduces to the standard.. (shrink)
Recent work in psychology on ‘culturalcognition’ suggests that our cultural background drives our attitudes towards a range of politically contentious issues in science such as global warming. This work is part of a more general attempt to investigate the ways in which our wants, wishes and desires impact on our assessments of information, events and theories. Put crudely, the idea is that we conform our assessments of the evidence for and against scientific theories with clear political (...) relevance to our pre-existing political beliefs and convictions. In this paper I explore the epistemological consequences of culturalcognition. What does it mean for the rationality of our beliefs about issues such as global warming? I argue for an unsettling conclusion. Not only are those on the ‘political right’ who reject the scientific consensus on issues like global warming unjustified in doing so, some of those on the ‘political left’ who accept the consensus are also unjustified in doing so. I finish by addressing the practical implications of my conclusions. (shrink)
Lack of symmetry of stone tools does not require that hominids making asymmetric tools are incapable of doing better. By analogy, differences between stone tools of early humans and modern technology arose without genetic change. A conservative assumption is that symmetry of stone artifacts may have arisen simply because symmetrical tools work better when used for striking and chopping rather than scraping.
The relationship between knowledge, belief, and ethics is an inaugural theme in philosophy; more recently, under the title “ethics of belief” philosophers have worked to develop the appropriate methodology for studying the nexus of epistemology, ethics, and psychology. The title “ethics of belief” comes from a 19th-century paper written by British philosopher and mathematician W.K. Clifford. Clifford argues that we are morally responsible for our beliefs because each belief that we form creates the cognitive circumstances for related beliefs to follow, (...) and we inevitably influence each other through those beliefs. This study argues that recent cognitive research supports Cliffordian insights regarding patterns of belief formation and social influence. From the confirmation offered by such research, it follows that informational accuracy holds serious ethical significance in public discourse. Although scientific and epistemological matters are not always thought to be linked to normative morality, this study builds on Clifford's initial insights to show their linkage is fundamental to inquiry itself. In turn, Clifford's ethical and epistemic outline can inform a framework grounded in “public reason” under which seemingly opposed science communication strategies are philosophically united. With public discourse on climate change as the key example, empirically informed and grounded strategies for science communication in the public sphere are considered. (shrink)
This bold and brilliant book asks the ultimate question of the life sciences: How did the human mind acquire its incomparable power? In seeking the answer, Merlin Donald traces the evolution of human culture and cognition from primitive apes to the era of artificial intelligence, and presents an original theory of how the human mind evolved from its presymbolic form. In the emergence of modern human culture, Donald proposes, there were three radical transitions. During the first, our bipedal but (...) still apelike ancestors acquired "mimetic" skill—the ability to represent knowledge through voluntary motor acts—which made Homo erectus successful for over a million years. The second transition—to "mythic" culture —coincided with the development of spoken language. Speech allowed the large-brained Homo sapiens to evolve a complex preliterate culture that survives in many parts of the world today. In the third transition, when humans constructed elaborate symbolic systems ranging from cuneiforms, hieroglyphics, and ideograms to alphabetic languages and mathematics, human biological memory became an inadequate vehicle for storing and processing our collective knowledge. The modern mind is thus a hybrid structure built from vestiges of earlier biological stages as well as new external symbolic memory devices that have radically altered its organization. According to Donald, we are symbol-using creatures, more complex than any that went before us, and we may have not yet witnessed the final modular arrangement of the human mind. (shrink)
Cognitive innovation has shaped and transformed our cognitive capacities throughout history. Until recently, cognitive innovation has not received much attention by empirical and conceptual research in the cognitive sciences. This paper is a first attempt to help close this gap. It will be argued that cognitive innovation is best understood in connection with cumulative cultural evolution and enculturation. Cumulative cultural evolution plays a vital role for the inter-generational transmission of the products of cognitive innovation. Furthermore, there are at (...) least two important functions of enculturation for cognitive innovation. First, enculturation is responsible for the ontogenetic acquisition of cognitive practices governing the interaction with innovative products. Second, successful processes of enculturation provide opportunities for subsequent innovative processes. The trans-generational trajectory of calculation from mathematical symbol systems to the first digital computers will serve as a paradigm example of the delicate interplay of cognitive innovation, cumulative cultural evolution, and enculturation. (shrink)
Natural and supernatural explanations are used to interpret the same events in a number of predictable and universal ways. Yet little is known about how variation in diverse cultural ecologies influences how people integrate natural and supernatural explanations. Here, we examine explanatory coexistence in three existentially arousing domains of human thought: illness, death, and human origins using qualitative data from interviews conducted in Tanna, Vanuatu. Vanuatu, a Melanesian archipelago, provides a cultural context ideal for examining variation in explanatory (...) coexistence due to the lack of industrialization and the relatively recent introduction of Christianity and Western education. We argue for the integration of interdisciplinary methodologies from cognitive science and anthropology to inform research on explanatory coexistence. (shrink)
We use a transmission chain method to establish how context and category salience influence the formation of novel stereotypes through cumulative cultural evolution. We created novel alien targets by combining features from three category dimensions—color, movement, and shape—thereby creating social targets that were individually unique but that also shared category membership with other aliens. At the start of the transmission chains each alien was randomly assigned attributes that described it. Participants were given training on the alien-attribute assignments and were (...) then tested on their memory for these. The alien-attribute assignments participants produced during test were used as the training materials for the next participant in the transmission chain. As information was repeatedly transmitted an increasingly simplified, learnable stereotype-like structure emerged for targets who shared the same color, such that by the end of the chains targets who shared the same color were more likely to share the same attributes. The apparent bias toward the formation of novel stereotypes around the color category dimension was also found for objects. However, when the category dimension of color was made less salient, it no longer dominated the formation of novel stereotypes. The current findings suggest that context and category salience influence category dimension salience, which in turn influences the cumulative cultural evolution of information. (shrink)
As the cognitive revolution was slow to come to the study of animal behavior, the vast majority of what we know about primate cognition has been discovered in the last 30 years. Building on the recognition that the physical and social worlds of humans and their living primate relatives pose many of the same evolutionary challenges, programs of research have established that the most basic cognitive skills and mental representations that humans use to navigate those worlds are already possessed (...) by other primates. There may be differences between humans and other primates, however, in more complex cognitive skills, such as reasoning about relations, causality, time, and other minds. Of special importance, the human primate seems to possess a species-unique set of adaptations for “cultural intelligence,” which are broad reaching in their effects on human cognition. (shrink)
Individuals tend to judge bad side effects as more intentional than good side effects (the Knobe or side- effect effect). Here, we assessed how widespread these findings are by testing eleven adult cohorts of eight highly contrasted cultures on their attributions of intentional action as well as ratings of blame and praise. We found limited generalizability of the original side-effect effect, and even a reversal of the effect in two rural, traditional cultures (Samoa and Vanuatu) where participants were more likely (...) to judge the good side effect as intentional. Three follow-up experiments indicate that this reversal of the side-effect effect is not due to semantics and may be linked to the perception of the status of the protagonist. These results highlight the importance of factoring cultural context in our understanding of moral cognition. (shrink)
The paper provisionally accepts the goal of Goldman's primary epistemics, which is to seek reliability values for basic cognitive processes, and questions whether such values may plausibly be expected. The reliability of such processes as perception and memory is dependent on other aspects of cognitive structure, and especially on one's "conceptual scheme," the evaluation of which goes beyond primary epistemics (and its dependence on cognitive science) to social epistemics, or indeed to traditional epistemology and philosophy of science. Two general arguments (...) against the plausibility of determining reliability values for the basic cognitive architecture of humans are proposed, one applying Fodor's distinction between input and central systems, and the other invoking a point by Geertz about culture and evolution. Social epistemics is only briefly evaluated, as it is nascent. (shrink)
Cognitive integration is a contribution to the embodied, embedded, and extended cognition movement in philosophy and cognitive science and the extended synthesis movement in evolutionary biology— particularly cultural evolution and niche construction. It is a framework for understanding and studying cognition and the mind that draws on several sources: empirical research in embodied cognition, arguments for extended cognition, distributed cognition, niche construction and cultural inheritance, developmental psychology, social learning, and cognitive neuroscience. Its uniqueness (...) rests in its ability to account for a range of cognitive phenomena diachronically across both ontogenetic and phylogenetic time scales as well as synchronically on faster time scales incorporating real- time online bodily interactions with the local environment. Furthermore, it does so by going beyond straightforwardly causal and dynamical descriptions of the phenomena in question to include normative social practices that govern and coordinate the brain- body- environment interactions that form the core of the cognitive integration (CI) framework. The three main pillars of the CI framework are interaction, cognitive practices, and the transformation of cognitive abilities. In this chapter I will outline the framework in terms of its core commitments, provide motivations for these core commitments, and discuss core examples of CI at work. I shall also respond to several recent criticisms of the CI framework. (shrink)