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Abstract

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.

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture
Author: Rachel Karniol

Abstract

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: Journal of Cognition and Culture

Abstract

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: Journal of Cognition and Culture
Author: Hugo Mercier

Abstract

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.

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture

Abstract

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.

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture

Abstract

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.

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture

Abstract

The idea that religious belief is ‘almost inevitable’ is so forcefully argued by Justin Barrett (2004, 2012) that it can warrant justifiable concern (Shook, 2017; Sterelny, 2018) – especially since he claims atheism is an unnatural handicap (2012, p. 203). In this article, I argue that religious belief in Homo sapiens isn’t inevitable – and that Barrett does agree when pushed. I describe the role played by a Hyperactive Agency Detection Device (HADD) in the generation of belief in God as necessary but insufficient in explaining religious culture – I distance myself from some common conceptions of HADD and the view I take of it is unorthodox. I point out that the conclusion to Barrett’s (2004) book, ‘Why Would Anyone Believe in God?’ is a fine example of the very hyperactive agency detection Barrett himself describes, and is therefore highly suspect.

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture

Abstract

Brazilian and US American children were compared for differences in tolerance and punishment expectancy. We hypothesized that participants would be less tolerant and more punishing of moral than conventional violations; tolerance and punishment expectancy would relate with age; Brazilians would tolerate less and expect more punishment than US Americans; and social domain would moderate effects of age and nationality. The sample had 129 matched children from Brazil and the USA. Moral/conventional-violation vignettes were used. Mixed-model GLMs suggested that children were less tolerant and more punishing of moral than social-conventional violations. Age effects were significant for tolerance. Brazilians scored lower on tolerance and higher on punishment expectancy than US Americans; they also differentiated less between violation domains than US Americans. These and other results suggest that Brazilians tolerate less but expect more punishment for violations than US Americans. Discussion is based on cultural and socio-historical differences between the two nations.

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture

Abstract

Cultural evolutionary theories define prestige as social rank that is freely conferred on individuals possessing superior knowledge or skill, in order to gain opportunities to learn from such individuals. Consequently, information provided by prestigious individuals should be more memorable, and hence more likely to be culturally transmitted, than information from non-prestigious sources, particularly for novel, controversial arguments about which preexisting opinions are absent or weak. It has also been argued that this effect extends beyond the prestigious individual’s relevant domain of expertise. We tested whether the prestige and relevance of the sources of novel, controversial arguments affected the transmission of those arguments, independently of their content. In a four-generation linear transmission chain experiment, British participants (N = 192) recruited online read two conflicting arguments in favour of or against the replacement of textbooks by computer tablets in schools. Each of the two conflicting arguments was associated with one of three sources with different levels of prestige and relevance (high prestige, high relevance; high prestige, low relevance; low prestige, low relevance). Participants recalled the pro-tablets and anti-tablets arguments associated with each source and their recall was then passed to the next participant within their chain. Contrary to our predictions, we did not find a reliable effect of either the prestige or relevance of the sources of information on transmission fidelity. We discuss whether the lack of a reliable effect of prestige on recall might be a consequence of differences between how prestige operates in this experiment and in everyday life.

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture

Abstract

In the process of cultural learning, people tend to acquire mental representations and behavior from prestigious individuals over dominant ones, as prestigious individuals generously share their expertise and know-how to gain admiration, whereas dominant ones use violence, manipulation, and intimidation to enforce obedience. However, in the context of intergroup conflict, violent thoughts and behavior that are otherwise associated with dominance can hypothetically become prestigious because parochial altruists, who engage in violence against out-groups, act in the interest of their group members, therefore prosocially. This shift would imply that for other in-groups, individuals behaving violently toward out-groups during intergroup conflicts become simultaneously prestigious, making them desirable cultural models to learn from. Using the mechanism of credibility enhancing displays (CRED s), this article presents preliminary vignette-based evidence that violent CRED s toward out-groups during intergroup conflict increase the perceived trustworthiness of a violent cultural model.

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture