Flags are conceptual representations that can prime nationalism and allegiance to one’s group. Investigating children’s understanding of conflict-related ethno-national flags in divided societies sheds light on the development of national categories. We explored the development of children’s awareness of, and preferences for, ethno-national flags in Northern Ireland, Kosovo, and the Republic of North Macedonia. Children displayed early categorization of, and ingroup preferences for, ethno-national flags. By middle-childhood, children’s conflict-related social categories shaped systematic predictions about other’s group-based preferences for flags. Children of minority-status groups demonstrated more accurate flag categorization and were more likely to accurately infer others’ flag preferences. While most Balkan children preferred divided versus integrated ethno-national symbols, children in the Albanian majority group in Kosovo demonstrated preferences for the new supra-ethnic national flag. We discuss the implications of children’s ethno-national flag categories on developing conceptualizations of nationality and the potential for shared national symbols to promote peace.
Numerous scholars from different fields ranging from history, political science, ethnic and cultural studies, sociology, and anthropology have discussed ethnic and racial identity issues in the People’s Republic of China. Most have noted that there are competing narratives regarding the conceptions of race and ethnicity. Much of the scholarship has been based on social constructivist orientations. This essay is directed towards a merger between social constructivist and cognitive science approaches on essentialism that may open the doors for further research and investigation of this important topic.
What is the relationship between war propaganda and nationalism, and what are the effects of each on support for, or participation in, violent acts? This is an important question for international criminal law and ongoing speech crime trials, where prosecutors and judges continue to assert that there is a clear causal link between war propaganda, nationalism, and mass violence. Although most legal judgments hinge on the criminal intent of propagandists, the question of whether and to what extent propaganda and nationalism interact to cause support for violence or participation remains unanswered. Our goal here is to contribute to research on propaganda and nationalism by bridging international criminal law and the behavioral and brain sciences. We develop an experiment conducted with Serbian participants that examines the effects of propaganda as identified in the latest international speech crime trial as causing mass violence, and thereby test hypotheses of expert witness Anthony Oberschall’s theory of mass manipulation. Using principal components analysis and Bayesian regression, we examine the effects of propaganda exposure and prior levels of nationalism as well as other demographics on support for violence, ingroup empathy, and outgroup empathy. Results show that while exposure to war propaganda does not increase justifications of violence, specific types of war propaganda increase ingroup empathy and decrease outgroup empathy. Further, although nationalism by itself is not significant for justifying violence, the interaction of increased nationalism and exposure to violent media is significant for altering group empathies. The implications of these findings are discussed with respect to international criminal law and the cognitive science of nationalism.
The Cognitive Science of Nationalistic Behavior (CSNB), presented in this paper, integrates the political sciences of nationalities as invented communities with an evolutionary cognitive analysis of social forms as products of the human mind. The framework is modeled after the Cognitive Science of Religion, where decades of cross-disciplinary work has generated standards, predictions, and data about the role of individual cognitive tendencies in shaping societies. We study the nationalistic calendar as a cultural attractor and draw on cue-based behavioral motivation and differential autobiographical memory systems to explain its appeal to the human mind. Calendrical elements are analyzed in the context of essentialist thought patterns and action representation systems. We conclude with the implications of calendrical thinking on the control of elites who aim to forge and reinforce national identities. This paper lays the groundwork for applying a similar approach to the study of other nationalistic elements.
Many people feel the pull of both creationism and evolution as explanations for the origin of species, despite the direct contradiction. Some respond by endorsing theistic evolution, integrating the scientific and religious explanations by positing that God initiated or guided the process of evolution. Others, however, simultaneously endorse both evolution and creationism despite the contradiction. Here, we illustrate this puzzling phenomenon with interviews with a diverse sample. This qualitative data reveals several approaches to coping with simultaneous inconsistent explanations. For example, some people seem to manage this contradiction by separating out ideological claims, which prioritize identity expression, from fact claims, which prioritize truth. Fitting with this interpretation, ambivalent individuals tended to call explanations “beliefs” (not knowledge), avoid mention of truth or falsity, and ground one or both beliefs in identity and personal history. We conclude with a brief discussion of the affordances of this distinction.
The purpose of the current research was to examine strategies of persuasion used by Arabic-speaking and Hebrew-speaking boys and girls to determine the relative contributions of culture and gender in determining communication styles. Children were asked to write a letter to a male or female peer asking for a gender-stereotyped or a gender-neutral gift. Four meta-categories were identified: formality, self-focus, other-focus, and gift-focus. For each meta-category except gift-focus, there were significant main effects and interactions. Language group was significant for formality and other-focus but not for self-focus. Importantly, there were several interactions between participant gender, target gender, and gender-stereotypy of gift, but these did not interact with language group. The results were discussed in the context of children’s socialization to the ethos of musayara and dugri in Arabic-speaking and Hebrew-speaking culture.
In many films, story is presented in an order different from chronological. Deviations from the chronological order in a narrative are called anachronies. Narratological theory and the evidence from psychological experiments indicate that anachronies allow stories to be more interesting, as the non-chronological order evokes curiosity in viewers. In this paper we investigate the historical dynamics in the use of anachronies in film. Particularly, we follow the cultural attraction theory that suggests that, given certain conditions, cultural evolution should conform to our cognitive preferences. We study this on a corpus of 80 most popular mystery films released in 1970–2009. We observe that anachronies have become used more frequently, and in a greater proportion of films. We also find that films that made substantial use of anachronies, on average, distributed the anachronies evenly along film length, while the films that made little use of anachronies placed them near the beginning and end. We argue that this can reflect a functional difference between these two types of using anachronies. The paper adds further support to the argument that popular culture may be influenced to a significant degree by our cognitive biases.
In a great variety of cultures oaths, ordeals, or lie detectors are used to adjudicate in trials, even though they do not reliably discern liars from truth tellers. I suggest that these practices owe their cultural success to the triggering of cognitive mechanisms that make them more culturally attractive. Informal oaths would trigger mechanisms related to commitment in communication. Oaths used in judicial contexts, by invoking supernatural punishments, would trigger intuitions of immanent justice, linking misfortunes following an oath with perjury. These intuitions would justify the infliction of costs on oath takers in a way that appears morally justified. Ordeals reflect the same logic. Intuitions about immanent justice link a worse outcome following the ordeal with a guilty verdict. This link justifies the application of the ordeal, and the fixed costs involved (burning, poisoning). Lie detectors also rely on the creation of a link between a specified outcome and a guilty verdict. However, they do not rely on intuitions about immanent justice, but on a variety of intuitions ranging from the plausibly universal to the culturally idiosyncratic. As a result, lie detectors involve lower fixed costs than ordeals, and are less cross-culturally successful than oaths or ordeals.
Cross-culturally two widely observed forms of social structure are individualism (open societies) and ascribed hierarchies (closed societies). Associated with these two types of social structure are a wide range of recurrent concomitant features. It is proposed that these two forms of social structure are common, in part, because they are associated with modular forms of understanding that lend intuitive support to them. In particular, it is proposed that individualistic open societies are associated with a folk-physics mode of construal whereas closed societies are associated with a folk-biological mode of construal. These distinctions are illustrated with the European Enlightenment as a hypothesized transition from closed to open societies.
Cognitive scientists have attributed the ubiquity of religious narratives partly to the favored recall of minimally counterintuitive (MCI) concepts within those narratives. Yet, this memory bias is inconsistent, sometimes absent, and without a functional rationale. Here, we asked if MCI concepts are more fitness relevant than intuitive concepts, and if fitness relevance can explain the existence and variability of the observed memory bias. In three studies, participants rated the potential threat and potential opportunity (i.e., fitness relevance) afforded by agents with abilities that violated folk psychology, physics, or biology (i.e., MCI abilities). As in previous work, agents with MCI abilities were recalled better than those with intuitive abilities. Additionally, agents with MCI abilities were perceived as greater threats, and as providing greater opportunities, than agents with intuitive abilities, but this perceived fitness relevance only mediated the memory bias when MCI abilities were used to accomplish disproportionally consequential outcomes. Minimally counterintuitive abilities that violated folk psychology were rated more intuitive and more of an opportunity than violations of folk physics or biology, while folk physics violations were recalled best. Explanations for these effects and their relevance to the cognitive science of religion are discussed.