The Cultural Evolution of Information Seeking

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture
Joëlle Proust Emeritus Director of Research, Institut Jean-Nicod, École Normale Supérieure (ENS) Paris France

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The mechanisms of selection, assimilation and transmission at work in cultural accumulation need to include evaluative processes for detecting informational lacunae and repair mechanisms. Novelty, interest, learnability of alternative concepts and practices need to be permanently monitored at the individual and at the group level. It is proposed that the evaluative mechanisms that control cultural accumulation are themselves subject to cultural evolution. This article outlines a plausible sequence of evolutionary steps from curiosity-based exploration to inquisitive communication and to collective epistemic deliberation. Procedural metacognition, based on affective monitoring, regulates curiosity and early forms of inquisitive communication. Explicit metacognition, based on transmitted concepts, rules and practices regulates collective epistemic deliberation. It successively expands across cultures the epistemic sensitivity to a range of distinct norms such as evidentiality, consistency, explanatory power and consensuality.

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