The Role of Culture and Evolution for Human Cognition

Topics in Cognitive Science 12 (4):1403-1420 (2020)
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Abstract

Since the emergence of our species at least, natural selection based on genetic variation has been replaced by culture as the major driving force in human evolution. It has made us what we are today, by ratcheting up cultural innovations, promoting new cognitive skills, rewiring brain networks, and even shifting gene distributions. Adopting an evolutionary perspective can therefore be highly informative for cognitive science in several ways: It encourages us to ask grand questions about the origins and ramifications of our cognitive abilities; it equips us with the means to investigate, explain, and understand key dimensions of cognition; and it allows us to recognize the continued and ubiquitous workings of culture and evolution in everyday instances of cognitive behavior. Taking advantage of this reorientation presupposes a shift in focus, though, from human cognition as a general, homogenous phenomenon to the appreciation of cultural diversity in cognition as an invaluable source of data.

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