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Shamans, including medicine-men, mediums, and the prophets of religious movements, recur across human societies. Shamanism also existed among nearly all documented hunter-gatherers, likely characterized the religious lives of many ancestral humans, and is often proposed by anthropologists to be the “first profession”, representing the first institutionalized division of labor beyond age and sex. This paper proposes a cultural evolutionary theory to explain why shamanism consistently develops, and in particular, (1) why shamanic traditions exhibit recurrent features around the world, (2) why shamanism professionalizes early, often in the absence of other specialization, and (3) how shifting social conditions affect the form or existence of shamanism. According to this theory, shamanism is a set of traditions developed through cultural evolution that adapts to people's intuitions to convince observers that a practitioner can influence otherwise unpredictable, significant events. The shaman does this by ostensibly transforming during initiation and trance, violating folk-intuitions of humanness to assure group-members that he or she can interact with the invisible forces that control uncertain outcomes. Entry requirements for becoming a shaman persist because the practitioner's credibility depends on them “transforming”. This contrasts with dealing with problems that have identifiable solutions (like building a canoe), where credibility hinges on showing results and outsiders can invade the jurisdiction by producing the outcome. Shamanism is an ancient human institution that recurs because of the capacity of cultural evolution to produce practices adapted to innate psychological tendencies.
A range of empirical findings are first used to more precisely characterize our distinctive tendency to objectify or externalize moral demands, and it is then argued that this salient feature of our moral cognition represents a profound puzzle for evolutionary approaches to human moral psychology that existing proposals do not help to resolve. It is then proposed that such externalization facilitated a broader shift to a vastly more cooperative form of social life by establishing and maintaining a connection between the extent to which an agent is herself motivated by a given moral norm and the extent to which she uses conformity to that same norm as a criterion in evaluating candidate partners in social interaction generally. This connection ensures the correlated interaction necessary to protect those prepared to adopt increasingly cooperative, altruistic, and other prosocial norms of interaction from exploitation, especially as such norms were applied in novel ways and/or to novel circumstances and as the rapid establishment of new norms allowed us to reap still greater rewards from hypercooperation. A wide range of empirical findings are then used to support this hypothesis, showing why the status we ascribe to moral demands and considerations exhibits the otherwise puzzling combination of objective and subjective elements that it does as well as showing how the need to effectively advertise our externalization of particular moral commitments generates features of our social interaction so familiar that they rarely strike us as standing in need of any explanation in the first place.
Why are negative emotions so central in art reception far beyond tragedy? Revisiting classical aesthetics in light of recent psychological research, we present a novel model to explain this much-discussed (apparent) paradox. We argue that negative emotions are an important resource for the arts in general rather than a special license for exceptional art forms only. The underlying rationale is that negative emotions have been shown to be particularly powerful in securing attention, intense emotional involvement, and high memorability—and hence precisely in what artworks strive for. Two groups of processing mechanisms are identified that conjointly adopt the particular powers of negative emotions for art's purposes. The first group consists of psychological distancing mechanisms that are activated along with the cognitive schemata of art, representation, and fiction. These schemata imply personal safety and control over continuing or discontinuing exposure to artworks, thereby preventing negative emotions from becoming outright incompatible with expectations of enjoyment. This distancing sets the stage for a second group of processing components that allow art recipients to positively embrace the experiencing of negative emotions, thereby rendering art reception more intense, more interesting, more emotionally moving, more profound, and occasionally even more beautiful. These components include compositional interplays of positive and negative emotions, the effects of aesthetic virtues of using the media of (re)presentation (musical sound, words/language, color, shapes) on emotion perception, and meaning-making efforts. Moreover, our Distancing–Embracing model proposes that concomitant mixed emotions often help to integrate negative emotions into altogether pleasurable trajectories.
Episodic memory has been analyzed in a number of different ways in both philosophy and psychology, and most controversy has centered on its self-referential, ‘autonoetic’ character. Here, we offer a comprehensive characterization of episodic memory in representational terms, and propose a novel functional account on this basis. We argue that episodic memory should be understood as a distinctive epistemic attitude taken towards an event simulation. On this view, episodic memory has a metarepresentational format and should not be equated with beliefs about the past. Instead, empirical findings suggest that the contents of human episodic memory are often constructed in the service of the explicit justification of such beliefs. Existing accounts of episodic memory function that have focused on explaining its constructive character through its role in ‘future-oriented mental time travel’ neither do justice to its capacity to ground veridical beliefs about the past nor to its representational format. We provide an account of the metarepresentational structure of episodic memory in terms of its role in communicative interaction. The generative nature of recollection allows us to represent and communicate the reasons for why we hold certain beliefs about the past. In this process, autonoesis corresponds to the capacity to determine when and how to assert epistemic authority in making claims about the past. A domain where such claims are indispensable are human social engagements. Such engagements commonly require the justification of entitlements and obligations, which is often possible only by explicit reference to specific past events.
Socioeconomic differences in behaviour are pervasive and well documented, but their causes are not yet well understood. Here, we make the case that there is a cluster of behaviours associated with lower socioeconomic status, which we call the behavioural constellation of deprivation. We propose that the relatively limited control associated with lower socioeconomic status curtails the extent to which people can expect to realise deferred rewards, leading to more present-oriented behaviour in a range of domains. We illustrate this idea using the specific factor of extrinsic mortality risk, an important factor in evolutionary theoretical models. We emphasise the idea that the present-oriented behaviours of the constellation are a contextually appropriate response to structural and ecological factors, rather than pathology or a failure of willpower. We highlight some principles from evolutionary theoretical models that can deepen our understanding of how socioeconomic inequalities can become amplified and embedded. These principles are that: 1) Small initial disparities can lead to larger eventual inequalities, 2) Feed-back loops can operate to embed early life circumstances, 3) Constraints can breed further constraints, and 4) Feed-back loops can operate over generations. We discuss some of the mechanisms by which socioeconomic status may influence behaviour. We then review how the contextually appropriate response perspective that we have outlined fits with other findings about control and temporal discounting. Finally, we discuss the implications of this interpretation for research and policy.
Within the cognitive sciences, most researchers assume that it is the job of linguists to investigate how language is represented, and that they do so largely by building theories based on explicit judgments about patterns of acceptability – whereas it is the task of psychologists to determine how language is processed, and that in doing so, they do not typically question the linguists’ representational assumptions. We challenge this division of labor, by arguing that structural priming provides an implicit method of investigating linguistic representations that should end the current reliance on acceptability judgments. Moreover, structural priming has now reached sufficient methodological maturity to provide substantial evidence about such representations. We argue that evidence from speakers’ tendency to repeat their own and others’ structural choices supports a linguistic architecture involving a single ‘shallow’ level of syntax that is connected to a semantic level containing information about quantification, thematic relations, and information structure, as well as to a phonological level. Many of the linguistic distinctions that are often used to support complex (or multi-level) syntactic structure are instead captured by semantics; however, the syntactic level includes some specification of ‘missing’ elements that are not realized at the phonological level. We also show that structural priming provides evidence about the consistency of representations across languages and about language development. In sum, we propose that structural priming provides a new basis for understanding the nature of language.
Does it make sense for people to hold one another responsible for what they do, as happens in countless social interactions every day? One of the most unsettling lessons from recent psychological research is that people are routinely mistaken about the origins of their behavior. Yet philosophical orthodoxy holds that the exercise of morally responsible agency typically requires accurate self-awareness. If the orthodoxy is right, and the psychology is to be believed, people characteristically fail to meet the standards of morally responsible agency, and we are faced with the possibility of skepticism about agency. Unlike many philosophers, I accept the unsettling lesson from psychology. I insist, however, that we are not driven to skepticism. Instead, we should reject the requirement of accurate self-awareness for morally responsible agency. In Talking to Our Selves I develop a dialogic theory, where the exercise of morally responsible agency emerges through a collaborative conversational process by which human beings, although afflicted with a remarkable degree of self-ignorance, are able to realize their values in their lives.
Recent progress in artificial intelligence (AI) has renewed interest in building systems that learn and think like people. Many advances have come from using deep neural networks trained end-to-end in tasks such as object recognition, video games, and board games, achieving performance that equals or even beats humans in some respects. Despite their biological inspiration and performance achievements, these systems differ from human intelligence in crucial ways. We review progress in cognitive science suggesting that truly human-like learning and thinking machines will have to reach beyond current engineering trends in both what they learn, and how they learn it. Specifically, we argue that these machines should (a) build causal models of the world that support explanation and understanding, rather than merely solving pattern recognition problems; (b) ground learning in intuitive theories of physics and psychology, to support and enrich the knowledge that is learned; and (c) harness compositionality and learning-to-learn to rapidly acquire and generalize knowledge to new tasks and situations. We suggest concrete challenges and promising routes towards these goals that can combine the strengths of recent neural network advances with more structured cognitive models.
Over 35 years ago, Meltzoff and Moore (1977) published their famous article ‘Imitation of facial and manual gestures by human neonates’. Their central conclusion, that neonates can imitate, was and continues to be controversial. Here we focus on an often neglected aspect of this debate, namely on neonatal spontaneous behaviors themselves. We present a case study of a paradigmatic orofacial ‘gesture’, namely tongue protrusion and retraction (TP/R). Against the background of new research on mammalian aerodigestive development, we ask: How does the human aerodigestive system develop and what role does TP/R play in the neonate's emerging system of aerodigestion? We show that mammalian aerodigestion develops in two phases: (1) from the onset of isolated orofacial movements in utero to the post-natal mastery of suckling at 4 months after birth, and; (2) thereafter, from preparation to the mastery of mastication and deglutition of solid foods. Like other orofacial stereotypies, TP/R emerges in the first phase and vanishes prior to the second. Based upon recent advances in activity-driven early neural development, we suggest a sequence of three developmental events in which TP/R might participate: the acquisition of tongue control, the integration of the central pattern generator for TP/R with other aerodigestive CPGs, and the formation of connections within the cortical maps of S1 and M1. If correct, orofacial stereotypies are crucial to the maturation of aerodigestion in the neonatal period but also unlikely to co-occur with imitative behavior.
Contempt is typically studied as a uniquely human moral emotion. However, this approach has yielded inconclusive results. We argue this is because the folk affect concept “contempt” has been inaccurately mapped onto basic affect systems. “Contempt” has features that are inconsistent with a basic emotion, especially its protracted duration and frequently cold phenomenology. Yet other features are inconsistent with a basic attitude. Nonetheless, the features of “contempt” functionally cohere. To account for this we revive and reconfigure the sentiment construct using the notion of evolved functional specialization. We develop the Attitude-Scenario-Emotion (ASE) model of sentiments, in which enduring attitudes represent others' social-relational value and moderate discrete emotions across scenarios. Sentiments are functional networks of attitudes and emotions. Distinct sentiments, including love, respect, like, hate, and fear, track distinct relational affordances, and each is emotionally pluripotent, thereby serving both bookkeeping and commitment functions within relationships. The sentiment contempt is an absence of respect; from cues to another's low efficacy, it represents them as worthless and small, muting compassion, guilt, and shame and potentiating anger, disgust, and mirth. This sentiment is ancient yet implicated in the ratcheting evolution of human ultrasocialty. The manifolds of the contempt network, differentially engaged across individuals and populations, explain the features of “contempt”, its translatability, and its variable experience – as “hot” or “cold”, occurrent or enduring, and anger-like or disgust-like. This rapprochement between psychological anthropology and evolutionary psychology contributes both methodological and empirical insights, with broad implications for understanding the functional and cultural organization of social affect.