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Profile: Dan Sperber (Institut Jean Nicod)
  1. Relevance: Communication and Cognition.Dan Sperber & Deirdre Wilson - 1986 - Oxford: Blackwell.
     
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  2.  57
    Explaining Culture: A Naturalistic Approach.Dan Sperber - 1996 - Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
    The book is full of novel and thought provoking ideas and is a pleasure to read.
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  3.  98
    Epistemic Vigilance.Dan Sperber, Fabrice Clément, Christophe Heintz, Olivier Mascaro, Hugo Mercier, Gloria Origgi & Deirdre Wilson - 2010 - Mind and Language 25 (4):359-393.
    Humans massively depend on communication with others, but this leaves them open to the risk of being accidentally or intentionally misinformed. To ensure that, despite this risk, communication remains advantageous, humans have, we claim, a suite of cognitive mechanisms for epistemic vigilance. Here we outline this claim and consider some of the ways in which epistemic vigilance works in mental and social life by surveying issues, research and theories in different domains of philosophy, linguistics, cognitive psychology and the social sciences.
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  4.  50
    A Mutualistic Approach to Morality: The Evolution of Fairness by Partner Choice.Nicolas Baumard, Jean-Baptiste André & Dan Sperber - 2013 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 36 (1):59-122.
    What makes humans moral beings? This question can be understood either as a proximate question or as an ultimate question. The question is about the mental and social mechanisms that produce moral judgments and interactions, and has been investigated by psychologists and social scientists. The question is about the fitness consequences that explain why humans have morality, and has been discussed by evolutionary biologists in the context of the evolution of cooperation. Our goal here is to contribute to a fruitful (...)
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  5.  99
    Why Do Humans Reason? Arguments for an Argumentative Theory.Dan Sperber - 2011 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 34 (2):57.
    Short abstract (98 words). Reasoning is generally seen as a means to improve knowledge and make better decisions. However, much evidence shows that reasoning often leads to epistemic distortions and poor decisions. This suggests that the function of reasoning should be rethought. Our hypothesis is that the function of reasoning is argumentative. It is to devise and evaluate arguments intended to persuade. Reasoning so conceived is adaptive given humans’ exceptional dependence on communication and vulnerability to misinformation. A wide range of (...)
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  6.  32
    Précis of Relevance: Communication and Cognition.Dan Sperber & Deirdre Wilson - 1987 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 10 (4):697.
  7.  32
    Meaning and Relevance.Deirdre Wilson & Dan Sperber - 2012 - Cambridge University Press.
    When people speak, their words never fully encode what they mean, and the context is always compatible with a variety of interpretations. How can comprehension ever be achieved? Wilson and Sperber argue that comprehension is an inference process guided by precise expectations of relevance. What are the relations between the linguistically encoded meanings studied in semantics and the thoughts that humans are capable of entertaining and conveying? How should we analyse literal meaning, approximations, metaphors and ironies? Is the ability to (...)
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  8. Relevance Theory.Deirdre Wilson & Dan Sperber - 2002 - In L. Horn & G. Ward (eds.), The Handbook of Pragmatics. Blackwell. pp. 607-632.
  9. Pragmatics, Modularity and Mind-Reading.Dan Sperber & Deirdre Wilson - 2002 - Mind and Language 17 (1&2):3–23.
    The central problem for pragmatics is that sentence meaning vastly underdetermines speaker’s meaning. The goal of pragmatics is to explain how the gap between sentence meaning and speaker’s meaning is bridged. This paper defends the broadly Gricean view that pragmatic interpretation is ultimately an exercise in mind-reading, involving the inferential attribution of intentions. We argue, however, that the interpretation process does not simply consist in applying general mind-reading abilities to a particular (communicative) domain. Rather, it involves a dedicated comprehension module, (...)
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  10. The Cognitive Foundations of Cultural Stability and Diversity.Dan Sperber & Lawrence A. Hirschfeld - 2004 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 8 (1):40-46.
  11.  6
    Metarepresentations.Dan Sperber (ed.) - 2000 - Oxford University Press.
    This volume in the Vancouver Studies in Cognitive Science series concerns metarepresentation: the construction and use of representations that represent other ...
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  12.  43
    The Moral, Epistemic, and Mindreading Components of Children's Vigilance Towards Deception.Dan Sperber - 2009 - Cognition 112 (3):367-380.
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  13.  38
    An Evolutionary Perspective on Testimony and Argumentation.Dan Sperber - 2001 - Philosophical Topics 29 (1/2):401-413.
  14.  24
    Intuitive and Reflective Inferences.Hugo Mercier & Dan Sperber - 2009 - In Keith Frankish & Jonathan St B. T. Evans (eds.), In Two Minds: Dual Processes and Beyond. Oxford University Press. pp. 149--170.
    Much evidence has accumulated in favor of such a dual view of reasoning. There is however some vagueness in the way the two systems are characterized. Instead of a principled distinction, we are presented with a bundle of contrasting features - slow/fast, automatic/controlled, explicit/implicit, associationist/rule based, modular/central - that, depending on the specific dual process theory, are attributed more or less exclusively to one of the two systems. As Evans states in a recent review, “it would then be helpful to (...)
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  15.  89
    Truthfulness and Relevance.Deirdre Wilson & Dan Sperber - 2002 - Mind 111 (443):583-632.
    This paper questions the widespread view that verbal communication is governed by a maxim, norm or convention of truthfulness which applies at the level of what is literally meant, or what is said. Pragmatic frameworks based on this view must explain the frequent occurrence and acceptability of loose and figurative uses of language. We argue against existing explanations of these phenomena and provide an alternative account, based on the assumption that verbal communication is governed not by expectations of truthfulness but (...)
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  16. Intuitive and Reflective Beliefs.Dan Sperber - 1997 - Mind and Language 12 (1):67-83.
    Humans have two kinds of beliefs, intuitive beliefs and reflective beliefs. Intuitive beliefs are a most fundamental category of cognition, defined in the architecture of the mind. They are formulated in an intuitive mental lexicon. Humans are also capable of entertaining an indefinite variety of higher-order or "reflective" propositional attitudes, many of which are of a credal sort. Reasons to hold "reflective beliefs" are provided by other beliefs that describe the source of the reflective belief as reliable, or that provide (...)
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  17. On Anthropological Knowledge.Dan Sperber - 1985 - Cambridge University Press.
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  18.  23
    Moral Reputation: An Evolutionary and Cognitive Perspective.Dan Sperber & Nicolas Baumard - 2012 - Mind and Language 27 (5):495-518.
    From an evolutionary point of view, the function of moral behaviour may be to secure a good reputation as a co-operator. The best way to do so may be to obey genuine moral motivations. Still, one's moral reputation maybe something too important to be entrusted just to one's moral sense. A robust concern for one's reputation is likely to have evolved too. Here we explore some of the complex relationships between morality and reputation both from an evolutionary and a cognitive (...)
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  19.  56
    Seedless Grapes: Nature and Culture.Dan Sperber - 2007 - In Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (eds.), Creations of the Mind: Theories of Artifacts and Their Representation. Oxford University Press. pp. 124--137.
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  20.  27
    Why Modeling Cultural Evolution Is Still Such a Challenge.Dan Sperber & Nicolas Claidière - 2006 - Biological Theory 1 (1):20-22.
  21.  75
    Loose Talk.Dan Sperber & Deirdre Wilson - 1985 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 86:153--171.
  22. A Deflationary Account of Metaphor.Dan Sperber & Deirdre Wilson - 2008 - In Ray Gibbs (ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Metaphor and Thought. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 84-105.
    On the relevance-theoretic approach outlined in this paper, linguistic metaphors are not a natural kind, and ―metaphor‖ is not a theoretically important notion in the study of verbal communication. Metaphorical interpretations are arrived at in exactly the same way as literal, loose and hyperbolic interpretations: there is no mechanism specific to metaphors, and no interesting generalisation that applies only to them. In this paper, we defend this approach in detail by showing how the same inferential procedure applies to utterances at (...)
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  23.  2
    Pragmatics.Dan Sperber & Deirdre Wilson - 1981 - Cognition 10 (1-3):281-286.
  24.  11
    Argumentation: Its Adaptiveness and Efficacy.Hugo Mercier & Dan Sperber - 2011 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 34 (2):94-111.
    Having defended the usefulness of our definition of reasoning, we stress that reasoning is not only for convincing but also for evaluating arguments, and that as such it has an epistemic function. We defend the evidence supporting the theory against several challenges: People are good informal arguers, they reason better in groups, and they have a confirmation bias. Finally, we consider possible extensions, first in terms of process-level theories of reasoning, and second in the effects of reasoning outside the lab.
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  25. Rethinking Symbolism.Dan Sperber & Alice L. Morton - 1977 - Philosophy and Rhetoric 10 (4):281-282.
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  26.  72
    Metarepresentations in an Evolutionary Perspective.Dan Sperber - 2000 - In [Book Chapter] (in Press). Oxford University Press.
    Humans are expert users of metarepresentations. How has this human metarepresentational capacity evolved? In order to contribute to the ongoing debate on this question, the chapter focuses on three more specific issues: i. How do humans metarepresent representations? ii. What came first: language, or metarepresentations? iii. Do humans have more than one metarepresentational ability?
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  27. Metarepresentation.Leda Cosmides, John Tooby & Dan Sperber - 2000 - In Dan Sperber (ed.), Metarepresentations. Oxford University Press. pp. 53.
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  28.  5
    Inept Reasoners or Pragmatic Virtuosos? Relevance and the Deontic Selection Task.Vittorio Girotto, Markus Kemmelmeier, Dan Sperber & Jean-Baptiste van der Henst - 2001 - Cognition 81 (2):B69-B76.
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  29. Modularity and Relevance: How Can a Massively Modular Mind Be Flexible and Context-Sensitive.Dan Sperber - 2004 - In Peter Carruthers, Stephen Laurence & Stephen Stich (eds.), The Innate Mind: Structure and Content. Oxford University Press. pp. 53.
    The claim that the human cognitive system tends to allocate resources to the processing of available inputs according to their expected relevance is at the basis of relevance theory. The main thesis of this chapter is that this allocation can be achieved without computing expected relevance. When an input meets the input condition of a given modular procedure, it gives this procedure some initial level of activation. Input-activated procedures are in competition for the energy resources that would allow them to (...)
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  30. Causal Cognition: A Multidisciplinary Debate.Dan Sperber, David Premack & Ann James Premack (eds.) - 1996 - Oxford University Press UK.
    An understanding of cause--effect relationships is fundamental to the study of cognition. In this book, outstanding specialists from comparative psychology, social psychology, developmental psychology, anthropology, and philosophy present the newest developments in the study of causal cognition and discuss their different perspectives. They reflect on the role and forms of causal knowledge, both in animal and human cognition, on the development of human causal cognition from infancy, and on the relationship between individual and cultural aspects of causal understanding. The result (...)
     
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  31. In Defense of Massive Modularity.Dan Sperber - 2001 - In Emmanuel Dupoux (ed.), Language, Brain and Cognitive Development: Essays in Honor of Jacques Mehler. MIT Press.
     
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  32.  43
    Weird People, Yes, but Also Weird Experiments.Nicolas Baumard & Dan Sperber - 2010 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33 (2-3):84-85.
    Henrich et al.’s article fleshes out in a very useful and timely manner comments often heard but rarely published about the extraordinary cultural imbalance in the recruitment of participants in psychology experiments and the doubt this casts on generalization of findings from these “weird” samples to humans in general. The authors mention that one of the concerns they have met in defending their views has been of a methodological nature: “the observed variation across populations may be due to various methodological (...)
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  33.  35
    Mood and the Analysis of Non-Declarative Sentences.Deirdre Wilson & Dan Sperber - 1988 - In J. Dancy, J. M. E. Moravcsik & C. C. W. Taylor (eds.), Human Agency: Language, Duty, and Value. Stanford University Press. pp. 77--101.
    How are non-declarative sentences understood? How do they differ semantically from their declarative counterparts? Answers to these questions once made direct appeal to the notion of illocutionary force. When they proved unsatisfactory, the fault was diagnosed as a failure to distinguish properly between mood and force. For some years now, efforts have been under way to develop a satisfactory account of the semantics of mood. In this paper, we consider the current achievements and future prospects of the mood-based semantic programme.
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  34.  14
    Speakers Are Honest Because Hearers Are Vigilant Reply to Kourken Michaelian.Dan Sperber - 2013 - Episteme 10 (1):61-71.
    In Kourken Michaelian questions the basic tenets of our article (Sperber et al. 2010). Here I defend against Michaelian's criticisms the view that epistemic vigilance plays a major role in explaining the evolutionary stability of communication and that the honesty of speakers and the reliability of their testimony are, to a large extent, an effect of hearers' vigilance.
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  35.  73
    The Guru Effect.Dan Sperber - 2010 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 1 (4):583-592.
    Obscurity of expression is considered a flaw. Not so, however, in the speech or writing of intellectual gurus. All too often, what readers do is judge profound what they have failed to grasp. Here I try to explain this guru effect by looking at the psychology of trust and interpretation, at the role of authority and argumentation, and at the effects of these dispositions and processes when they operate at a population level where, I argue, a runaway phenomenon of overappreciation (...)
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  36. Understanding Verbal Understanding.Dan Sperber - 1994 - In Jean Khalfa (ed.), What is Intelligence? Cambridge University Press.
  37.  26
    Beyond Speaker’s Meaning.Dan Sperber & Deirdre Wilson - 2015 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 15 (2):117-149.
    Our main aim in this paper is to show that constructing an adequate theory of communication involves going beyond Grice’s notion of speaker’s meaning. After considering some of the difficulties raised by Grice’s three-clause definition of speaker’s meaning, we argue that the characterisation of ostensive communication introduced in relevance theory can provide a conceptually unified explanation of a much wider range of communicative acts than Grice was concerned with, including cases of both ‘showing that’ and ‘telling that’, and with both (...)
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  38. Pragmatics.Dan Sperber & Deirder Wilson - 2005 - In Frank Jackson & Michael Smith (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
     
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  39.  38
    Linguistic Form and Relevance.Deirdre Wilson & Dan Sperber - 1993 - Lingua 90:1-25.
    Our book Relevance (Sperber and Wilson 1986) treats utterance interpretation as a two-phase process: a modular decoding phase is seen as providing input to a central inferential phase in which a linguistically encoded logical form is contextually enriched and used to construct a hypothesis about the speaker's informative intention. Relevance was mainly concerned with the inferential phase of comprehension: we had to answer Fodor's challenge that while decoding processes are quite well understood, inferential processes are not only not understood, but (...)
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  40. IX—Loose Talk.Dan Sperber & Deirdre Wilson - 1986 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 86 (1):153-172.
  41. An Objection to the Memetic Approach to Culture.Dan Sperber - 2012 - Darwinizing Culture.
    This chapter determines a major empirical hurdle for any future discipline of memetics. It mainly shows that one can find very similar copies of some cultural item, link these copies through a causal chain of events which faithfully reproduced those items, and nevertheless not have an example of memetic inheritance. In addition, the stability of cultural patterns is proof that fidelity in copying is high despite individual variations. It is also believed that what is offered as an explanation is precisely (...)
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  42. Evolution, Communication, and the Proper Function of Language.Gloria Origgi & Dan Sperber - unknown
    Language is both a biological and a cultural phenomenon. Our aim here is to discuss, in an evolutionary perspective, the articulation of these two aspects of language. For this, we draw on the general conceptual framework developed by Ruth Millikan while at the same time dissociating ourselves from her view of language.
     
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  43. Fodor's Frame Problem and Relevance Theory (Reply to Chiappe & Kukla).Dan Sperber & Deirdre Wilson - 1996 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 19 (3):530-532.
    Chiappe and Kukla argue that relevance theory fails to solve the frame problem as defined by Fodor. They are right. They are wrong, however, to take Fodor’s frame problem too seriously. Fodor’s concerns, on the other hand, even though they are wrongly framed, are worth addressing. We argue that Relevance thoery helps address them.
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  44.  34
    When is a Conclusion Worth Deriving? A Relevance-Based Analysis of Indeterminate Relational Problems.Henst Jean-Baptiste Van Der, Sperber Dan & Politzer Guy - 2002 - Thinking and Reasoning 8 (1):1-20.
    When is a conclusion worth deriving? We claim that a conclusion is worth deriving to the extent that it is relevant in the sense of relevance theory (Sperber & Wilson, 1995). To support this hypothesis, we experiment with ''indeterminate relational problems'' where we ask participants what, if anything, follows from premises such as A is taller than B, A is taller than C . With such problems, the indeterminate response that nothing follows is common, and we explain why. We distinguish (...)
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  45.  29
    Conceptual Tools for a Natural Science of Society and Culture.Dan Sperber - unknown
    This is the text of the Radcliffe-Brown Lecture in Social Anthopology 1999 (To appear in the Proceedings of the British Academy). In it, I argue that to approach society and culture in a naturalistic way, the domain of the social sciences must be reconceptualised by recognising only entities and processes of which we have a naturalistic understanding. These are mental representations and public productions, the processes that causally link them, the causal chains that bond these links, and the complex webs (...)
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  46.  53
    Use or Misuse of the Selection Task? Rejoinder to Fiddick, Cosmides, and Tooby.Dan Sperber - 2002 - Cognition 85 (3):277-290.
  47. Apparently Irrational Beliefs.Dan Sperber - 1982 - In Martin Hollis & Steven Lukes (eds.), Rationality and Relativism. MIT Press. pp. 149--180.
     
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  48.  66
    The Mapping Between the Mental and the Public Lexicon.Dan Sperber & Deirdre Wilson - 1998 - In Peter Carruthers & Jill Boucher (eds.), [Book Chapter]. Cambridge University Press. pp. 184-200.
    We argue that the presence of a word in an utterance serves as starting point for a relevance guided inferential process that results in the construction of a contextually appropriate sense. The linguistically encoded sense of a word does not serve as its default interpretation. The cases where the contextually appropriate sense happens to be identical to this linguistic sense have no particular theoretical significance. We explore some of the consequences of this view. One of these consequences is that there (...)
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  49.  34
    Culture and Modularity.Dan Sperber & Lawrence Hirschfeld - 2006 - In Peter Carruthers, Stephen Laurence & Stephen P. Stich (eds.), The Innate Mind: Culture and Cognition.
    Members of a human group are bound with one another by multiple flows of information. (Here we use “information” in a broad sense that includes not only the content of people’s knowledge, but also that of their beliefs, assumptions, fictions, rules, norms, skills, maps, images, and so on.) This information is materially realized in the mental representations of the people, and in their public productions, that is, their cognitively guided behaviors and the enduring material traces of these behaviors. Mentally represented (...)
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  50.  41
    Evolution, Communication and the Proper Function of Language.Gloria Origgi & Dan Sperber - 2000 - In Peter Carruthers & A. Chamberlain (eds.), [Book Chapter] (in Press). Cambridge University Press. pp. 140--169.
    Language is both a biological and a cultural phenomenon. Our aim here is to discuss, in an evolutionary perspective, the articulation of these two aspects of language. For this, we draw on the general conceptual framework developed by Ruth Millikan (1984) while at the same time dissociating ourselves from her view of language.
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