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)
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.
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)
Deontic reasoning is thinking about whether actions are forbidden or allowed, obligatory or not obligatory. It is proposed that social norms, imposing constraints on individual actions, constitute the fundamental concept for the system of these four deontic modalities, and that people reason from such norms flexibly according to deontic core principles. Two experiments are presented, one on deontic conditional reasoning, the other on “pure” deontic reasoning. Both experiments demonstrate people's high deontic competence and confirm the proposed representational and inferential principles. (...) Experiment 1 additionally shows small effects of the conditional formulations. These findings support the dual source approach (Beller & Spada, 2003) that distinguishes between domain-specific and domain-general inferences. Implications for other theories of deontic reasoning are discussed. (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.
In order to resolve the controversial discussion regarding content effects in deductive reasoning, we propose distinguishing between two inferential sources—an argument's form , and additional relations people associate with the argument's content —and analysing their interplay. Both sources are equally necessary in order to understand the role content plays in deductive reasoning. People make valid deductions from the content relations ( content competence ), but in thematic reasoning tasks, these deductions lead to the intriguing phenomenon known as content effects . (...) Focusing on the interplay of both sources of inferences, the dual source distinction enables a novel class of predictions to be made, namely the correct mastery of the logical connectors ( form competence ) in tasks that require the individual to think about an argument's form in relation to its content. To illustrate the dual source approach and its implications, the selection task paradigm of conditional reasoning with a point of view is used in combination with two content domains: conditional promises with cheating and non-cheating perspectives and technical systems with causal perspectives. Experimental findings corroborate all three phenomena: content competence, content effects, and form competence. The dual source distinction is discussed with regard to current theories of reasoning. (shrink)
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)
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.
Causal conditional reasoning means reasoning from a conditional statement that refers to causal content. We argue that data from causal conditional reasoning tasks tell us something not only about how people interpret conditionals, but also about how they interpret causal relations. In particular, three basic principles of people's causal understanding emerge from previous studies: the modal principle, the exhaustive principle, and the equivalence principle. Restricted to the four classic conditional inferences—Modus Ponens, Modus Tollens, Denial of the Antecedent, and Affirmation of (...) the Consequent—causal conditional reasoning data are only partially able to support these principles. We present three experiments that use concrete and abstract causal scenarios and combine inference tasks with a new type of task in which people reformulate a given causal situation. The results provide evidence for the proposed representational principles. Implications for theories of the na ve understanding of causality are discussed. (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)