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)
. This paper describes a cross-cultural and developmental research project on naïve or folk biology, that is, the study of how people conceptualize nature. The combination of domain specificity and cross-cultural comparison brings a new perspective to theories of categorization and reasoning and undermines the tendency to focus on “standard populations.” From the standpoint of mainstream cognitive psychology, we find that results gathered from standard populations in industrialized societies often fail to generalize to humanity at large. For example, similarity-driven typicality (...) and diversity effects and basic level phenomena either are not found or pattern differently when we move beyond undergraduates. From the perspective of domain-specificity, standard populations may yield misleading results, because such populations represent examples of especially impoverished experience with respect to nature. Conceptions of humans as biological kinds vary with cultural milieu and input conditions. We also show certain phenomena that are robust across populations, consistent with notions of domain-specificity. (shrink)
This paper describes a cross-cultural research project on the relation between how people conceptualize nature and how they act in it. Mental models of nature differ dramatically among and within populations living in the same area and engaged in more or less the same activities. This has novel implications for environmental decision making and management, including dealing with commons problems. Our research also offers a distinct perspective on models of culture, and a unified approach to the study of culture and (...) cognition. We argue that cultural transmission and formation does not consist primarily in shared rules or norms, but in complex distributions of causally-connected representations across minds in interaction with the environment. The cultural stability and diversity of these representations often derives from rich, biologically-prepared mental mechanisms that limit variation to readily transmissible psychological forms. This framework addresses a series of methodological issues, such as the limitations of conceiving culture to be a well-defined system or bounded entity, an independent variable, or an internalized component of minds. (shrink)
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 (...) undergraduates, and ordinary Itza' Maya) and two sets of birds (North American and Central American). Categorization tasks show considerable similarity among the three groups' taxonomic sorts, but also systematic differences. Notably, US expert categorization is more similar to Itza' than to US novice categorization. The differences are magnified on inductive reasoning tasks where only undergraduates show patterns of judgment that are largely consistent with current models of category-based taxonomic inference. The Maya commonly employ causal and ecological reasoning rather than taxonomic reasoning. Experts use a mixture of strategies (including causal and ecological reasoning), only some of which current models explain. US and Itza' informants differed markedly when reasoning about passerines (songbirds), reflecting the somewhat different role that songbirds play in the two cultures. The results call into question the importance of similarity-based notions of typicality and central tendency in natural categorization and reasoning. These findings also show that relative expertise leads to a convergence of thought that transcends cultural boundaries and shared experiences. (shrink)
Do cultural models facilitate particular ways of perceiving interactions in nature? We explore variability in folkecological principles of reasoning about interspecies interactions. In two studies, Indigenous Panamanian Ngöbe and U.S. participants interpreted an illustrated, wordless nonfiction book about the hunting relationship between a coyote and badger. Across both studies, the majority of Ngöbe interpreted the hunting relationship as cooperative and the majority of U.S. participants as competitive. Study 2 showed that this pattern may reflect different beliefs about, and perhaps different (...) awareness of, plausible interspecies interactions. Further probes suggest that these models of ecological interaction correlate with recognition of social agency in nonhuman animals. We interpret our results in terms of cultural models of nature and nonhuman agency. (shrink)
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.
We explored the relationship between qualities of victims in hypothetical scenarios and the appearance of framing effects. In past studies, participantsâ feelings about the victims have been demonstrated to affect whether framing effects appear, but this relationship has not been directly examined. In the present study, we examined the relationship between caring about the people at risk, the perceived interdependence of the people at risk, and frame. Scenarios were presented that differed in the degree to which participants could be expected (...) to care about the group and the extent to which the group could be construed as interdependent. A framing effect was found only for the scenario describing the victims as the participantsâ friends who did not know each other (high caring/low interdependence), and this went in the opposite direction from typical framing effects. Finally, perceived interdependence and caring affected choice both within and across scenarios, with more risky choices made by participants with high interdependence ratings and high caring ratings. (shrink)
Although mutually advantageous cooperative strategies might be an apt account of some societies, other moral systems might be needed among certain groups and contexts. In particular, in a duty-based moral system, people do not behave morally with an expectation for proportional reward, but rather, as a fulfillment of debt owed to others. In such systems, mutualistic motivations are not necessarily a key component of morality.
Henrich et al.'s critical review demonstrating that psychology research is over-reliant on WEIRD samples is an important contribution to the field. Their stronger claim that is less convincing, however. We argue that WEIRD people's apparent distinct weirdness is a methodological side-effect of psychology's over-reliance on WEIRD populations for developing its methods and theoretical constructs.