Across two studies, a wide age range of participants was interviewed about the nature of death. All participants were living in rural Madagascar in a community where ancestral beliefs and practices are widespread. In Study 1, children (8–17 years) and adults (19–71 years) were asked whether bodily and mental processes continue after death. The death in question was presented in the context of a narrative that focused either on the corpse or on the ancestral practices associated with the afterlife. Participants (...) aged 8 years and older claimed that death brings an end to most bodily and mental processes. Nevertheless, particularly in the context of the religious narrative, they claimed that certain mental processes continue even after death. This assertion of an afterlife was more evident among adults than children, especially with respect to cognitive processes, such as knowing and remembering. In Study 2, 5‐ and 7‐year‐olds were asked similar questions in connection with the death of a bird and a person. Seven‐year‐olds consistently claimed that bodily and mental processes cease at death, whereas 5‐year‐olds were unsystematic in their replies. Together, the two studies replicate and extend findings obtained with Western children showing that, in the course of development, different conceptions of death are elaborated—a biological conception in which death terminates living processes and a religious conception in which death marks the beginning of a new form of spiritual existence. (shrink)
Anthropology combines two quite different enterprises: the ethnographic study of particular people in particular places and the theorizing about the human species. As such, anthropology is part of cognitive science in that it contributes to the unitary theoretical aim of understanding and explaining the behavior of the animal species Homo sapiens. This article draws on our own research experience to illustrate that cooperation between anthropology and the other sub-disciplines of cognitive science is possible and fruitful, but it must proceed from (...) the recognition of anthropology’s unique epistemology and methodology. (shrink)
We welcome the critical appraisal of the database used by the behavioral sciences, but we suggest that the authors' differentiation between variable and universal features is ill conceived and that their categorization of non-WEIRD populations is misleading. We propose a different approach to comparative research, which takes population variability seriously and recognizes the methodological difficulties it engenders.
Each essay in this book starts with a question posed by individual ethnographic experience and then goes on to frame this question in a broader, comparative context. Written in an engaging and accessible style, Questions of Anthropology presents an introduction to the purpose and value of Anthropology today."--BOOK JACKET.