Cultural Cognition 1

The origins of Cultural Cognition

The Cultural Context of Cognition

The Cultural Part of Cognition

Culture shapes the Evolution of Cognition

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The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition

Michael Tomasello argues that the roots of the human capacity for symbol-based culture, and the kind of psychological development that takes place within it, are based in a cluster of uniquely human cognitive capacities that emerge early in human ontogeny. These include capacities for sharing attention with other persons; for understanding that others have intentions of their own; and for imitating, not just what someone else does, but what someone else has intended to do. In his discussions of language, symbolic representation, and cognitive development, Tomasello describes with authority and ingenuity the “ratchet effect” of these capacities working over evolutionary and historical time to create the kind of cultural artifacts and settings within which each new generation of children develops. He also proposes a novel hypothesis, based on processes of social cognition and cultural evolution, about what makes the cognitive representations of humans different from those of other primates. Ambitious and elegant, this book builds a bridge between evolutionary theory and cultural psychology. Michael Tomasello is one of the very few people to have done systematic research on the cognitive capacities of both nonhuman primates and human children. “The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition” identifies what the differences are, and suggests where they might have come from. Lucid, erudite, and passionate, “The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition” will be essential reading for developmental psychology, animal behavior, and cultural psychology.

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The Social Neuroscience of Empathy

After decades as the cultivated interest of scholars in philosophy and in clinical and developmental psychology, empathy research is suddenly everywhere! Seemingly overnight it has blossomed into a vibrant, multidisciplinary field of study and has crossed the boundaries of clinical and developmental psychology to plant its roots fi rmly in the soil of personality and social psychology, mainstream cognitive psychology, and cognitive-affective neuroscience.

To account for the recent explosion of empathy research, we must trace its growth to roots that are less obvious but even deeper than those mentioned so far: the study of the capacity for empathy in evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology. As Sue Carter, James Harris, and Stephen Porges argue in chapter 13 of the present volume, the capacity for empathy in humans and their progenitor species developed over millions of years of evolutionary history, in ways that are only now becoming clear. Although it is impossible to travel back in time and observe these developments directly, the evidence for them is available in the neuroanatomical continuities and differences that can be observed across the phylogenetic spectrum.

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