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- Category: Publications
- Published on Monday, 01 December 2014 18:10
A new, interesting, and original book by Helen De Cruz and Johan De Smedt: A Natural History of Natural Theology: The Cognitive Science of Theology and Philosophy of Religion. MIT Press 2014.
Overview: "Questions about the existence and attributes of God form the subject matter of natural theology, which seeks to gain knowledge of the divine by relying on reason and experience of the world. Arguments in natural theology rely largely on intuitions and inferences that seem natural to us, occurring spontaneously—at the sight of a beautiful landscape, perhaps, or in wonderment at the complexity of the cosmos—even to a nonphilosopher. In this book, Helen De Cruz and Johan De Smedt examine the cognitive origins of arguments in natural theology. They find that although natural theological arguments can be very sophisticated, they are rooted in everyday intuitions about purpose, causation, agency, and morality. Using evidence and theories from disciplines including the cognitive science of religion, evolutionary ethics, evolutionary aesthetics, and the cognitive science of testimony, they show that these intuitions emerge early in development and are a stable part of human cognition.
De Cruz and De Smedt analyze the cognitive underpinnings of five well-known arguments for the existence of God: the argument from design, the cosmological argument, the moral argument, the argument from beauty, and the argument from miracles. Finally, they consider whether the cognitive origins of these natural theological arguments should affect their rationality."
- Category: Jobs
- Published on Monday, 10 November 2014 13:03
The Department of Cognitive Science at CEU invites applications for doctoral student positions starting in September 2015. This is a research-based training program in human cognition with social cognition and learning as core themes. Research topics include cooperation, communication, social learning, cultural transmission, embodied cognition, joint action, cognitive development, strategic decision-making, problem solving, visual cognition, sensory and statistical learning, visual psychophysics, computational neuroscience, and social cognitive neuroscience. Students will follow courses in cognitive psychology, philosophy of mind, cognitive anthropology, computational cognition and linguistics, and will receive practical research training in the laboratories of the members of this new department.
- Category: Publications
- Published on Sunday, 09 November 2014 12:49
An interesting paper by Laura Fontanari, Michel Gonzalez, Giorgio Vallortigara, and Vittorio Girotto: "Probabilistic cognition in two indigenous Mayan groups", forthcoming in PNAS. Preprint available here.
Abstract: "Is there a sense of chance shared by all individuals, regardless of their schooling or culture? To test whether the ability to make correct probabilistic evaluations depends on educational and cultural guidance, we investigated probabilistic cognition in preliterate and prenumerate Kaqchikel and K’iche’, two indigenous Mayan groups, living in remote areas of Guatemala. Although the tested individuals had no formal education, they performed correctly in tasks in which they had to consider prior and posterior information, proportions and combinations of possibilities. Their performance was indistinguishable from that of Mayan school children and Western controls. Our results provide evidence for the universal nature of probabilistic cognition."
- Category: Pierre Jacob's blog
- Published on Saturday, 25 October 2014 17:50
- Written by Pierre Jacob
Apperly and Butterfill (2009) and Butterfill and Apperly (2013) have proposed a two-systems model of mindreading. According to this model, humans make use of two distinct psychological systems in mindreading tasks. The model rests on three related claims. First of all, the early-developing system, which is taken to be efficient, fast and inflexible, is supposed to explain the positive findings based on spontaneous-response tasks showing that infants can track the contents of others’ false beliefs. The later-developing system, which is taken to be slower, inefficient and flexible, is supposed to be necessary for success at elicited-response false-belief tasks, which most children pass only when they are at least 4,5 years of age. Secondly, the two separate systems are supposed to co-exist in human adults. Finally, there are signature limits of the early-developing system: in particular, only the later-developing system is taken to enable someone to represent the content of another’s false belief about object identity.Low and Watts, in a 2013 paper, took seriously the prediction of the two-systems model that representing the content of an agent’s false belief about object identity falls beyond the scope of the early-developing mindreading system and can only be executed by the later-developing system. They designed a task whose purpose was to probe participants’ understanding of the content of a male agent’s false belief about the identity of a two-colored puppet, using two different measures. I previously argued that the findings reported by Low and Watts (2013) fail to support the two-systems model of mindreading because it does not merely test participants’ ability to track the content of an agent’s false belief about an object’s identity but also their ability to revise or update their own belief about the puppet’s colors. Gergo Csibra has further suggested a follow-up experiment.So far as I know, Csibra’s suggestion has yet to be tested. On the other hand, Low, Drummond, Walmsley and Wang (2014) have designed a new quite interesting visual perspective-taking task, whose complexity matches that of Low and Watts’s (2013) earlier Identity task. Here I want to discuss this work and its implications.
- Category: Call for Papers
- Published on Wednesday, 01 October 2014 15:05
The deadline for submissions to this symposium has been extended to November the 1st.
A symposium on 'Reciprocity and social cognition' organized by Anna Strasser, Stephen Butterfill, Richard Moore, Olle Blomberg will take place at the Berlin School of Mind and Brain, 23–25 March 2015. The call for poster deadline is extended to November 1, 2014.
Abstract: Reciprocity is a common feature of much social cognition. For example, when two people attend to the same object simultaneously they can do so merely in parallel or jointly; only the latter of which involves reciprocity. However, traditional accounts of the foundations of social cognition have largely ignored the existence of reciprocity and treated social cognition as a process that rests on observation rather than genuine interaction (e.g., Dennett, 1982; Davidson, 1994; Stich & Nicholls, 2003; Goldman 2006; Rizzolatti & Sinigaglia, 2008). Notable exceptions highlight reciprocity as a key feature of social cognition and joint action (Tomasello et al., 2005; Bratman, 2014). However, the precise nature of this concept has not always been clear, and debates across adjacent fields have remained somewhat disconnected.
In this three-day workshop we will try to clarify the concept of reciprocity and to explore for the first time how the notion of reciprocity can be used to illuminate debates in adjacent fields of cognitive science.
- Category: SFI Cultural Evolution Workshop
- Published on Wednesday, 03 September 2014 09:59
Daniel Dennett's introduction (with comments).
Participants' summaries (in alphabetical order): Susan Blackmore, Robert Boyd, Nicolas Claidière, Peter Godfrey-Smith, Joseph Henrich, Olivier Morin, Peter Richerson, Dan Sperber, Kim Sterelny.
(We gratefully acknowledge the generous support of Louis Godbout, which made the meeting possible.)
- Category: SFI Cultural Evolution Workshop
- Published on Tuesday, 02 September 2014 10:01
- Written by Daniel Dennett
These are Daniel Dennett's introductory remarks on the workshop on cultural evolution he conveyed in Santa Fe in May 2014.
Click to see the summaries and comments by Blackmore, Boyd, Claidière, Godfrey‑Smith, Henrich, Morin, Richerson, Sperber, Sterelny.
Perspectives on Cultural Evolution
(Footnotes contain comments by Richerson and Sperber.)
Ever since Darwin’s Descent of Man (1871), the idea of adopting an evolutionary perspective on human culture has seemed to many to be a natural move, obviously worth trying—and to many others to be a dangerous, “nihilistic,” “reductionistic”, “scientistic,” assault on everything we hold dear. Work on cultural evolution has been making good progress in recent years, but has been hindered by distortions, some perhaps deliberate, but others are misunderstandings that naturally arise between slightly different traditions. I formed this working party to try to find common ground and resolve differences among some of the leading theorists and experimentalists. The ten participants included the trio of Boyd, Henrich and Richerson (BRH), a French trio of Sperber, Claidière and Morin (SCM), the memeticists Blackmore and myself, and two philosophers of biology who have been particularly engaged with issues of cultural evolution, Peter Godfrey Smith and Kim Sterelny. Several other leading figures were invited but could not participate for various reasons.
- Category: Events
- Published on Monday, 25 August 2014 20:48
- Category: Publications
- Published on Wednesday, 06 August 2014 19:05
Abstract: Many of the messages presented in respectable scientific publications are, in fact, based on various forms of rumors. Some of these rumors appear so frequently, and in such complex, colorful, and entertaining ways that we can think of them as academic urban legends. The explanation for this phenomenon is usually that authors have lazily, sloppily, or fraudulently employed sources, and peer reviewers and editors have not discovered these weaknesses in the manuscripts during evaluation. To illustrate this phenomenon, I draw upon a remarkable case in which a decimal point error appears to have misled millions into believing that spinach is a good nutritional source of iron. Through this example, I demonstrate how an academic urban legend can be conceived and born, and can continue to grow and reproduce within academia and beyond."
- Category: Publications
- Published on Saturday, 19 July 2014 17:32
An excellent post by Michael Schulson at Aeon magazine entitled "How to choose? When your reasons are worse than useless, sometimes the most rational choice is a random stab in the dark," showing, among other things, how rationality and expectations of rationality can clash.
"In the 1970s, a young American anthropologist named Michael Dove set out for Indonesia, intending to solve an ethnographic mystery. Then a graduate student at Stanford, Dove had been reading about the Kantu’, a group of subsistence farmers who live in the tropical forests of Borneo. The Kantu’ practise the kind of shifting agriculture known to anthropologists as swidden farming, and to everyone else as slash-and-burn. Swidden farmers usually grow crops in nutrient-poor soil. They use fire to clear their fields, which they abandon at the end of each growing season.Like other swidden farmers, the Kantu’ would establish new farming sites ever year in which to grow rice and other crops. Unlike most other swidden farmers, the Kantu’ choose where to place these fields through a ritualised form of birdwatching. They believe that certain species of bird – the Scarlet-rumped Trogon, the Rufous Piculet, and five others – are the sons-in-law of God. The appearances of these birds guide the affairs of human beings. So, in order to select a site for cultivation, a Kantu’ farmer would walk through the forest until he spotted the right combination of omen birds. And there he would clear a field and plant his crops. Dove figured that the birds must be serving as some kind of ecological indicator...
- Category: Olivier's blog
- Published on Wednesday, 18 June 2014 10:49
- Written by Olivier Morin
- Babies' and birds' causal understanding
- Kinship, theology and deep grammar
- Deparmental Lectureship in Cognitive Anthropology, Oxford
- Combinatorial Communication in Bacteria?
- Negatively-Biased Credulity and the Cultural Evolution of Beliefs
- The Moral Domain: Conceptual Issues in Moral Psychology. Vilnius . 9-11 October 2014
- The Content of Our Cooperation, Not the Color of Our Skin
- Relationship Thinking
- This year's Edge question
- Joint PhD degree in the cognitive science of religion