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Social Intelligence and Culture Social Environment
It is critical for the biological success of many species. It is cognitively complex.
Most social animals’ awareness of their social environment consists on how others relate to themselves (mother, sibling, …). They’re not aware on how other relate to others.
Primates are sensitive to third parties relationships (e.g.: they redirect aggression against members of the family of those they have been in conflict with).
Hence, successful interaction among these primates require a system of protobeliefs. This is also suggested by the fact that (i) information is often not acquired at the time it is used and (ii) that information can be relevant to more than one action. The Social Intelligence Hypothesis (SIH)
Femaleschoice among primates often rests on the performance done by a male in his past (e.g. he provided resources to his partner). Since this information is not available on line it is likely that primates construct social maps (e.g. maps of family relationships and social hierarchies). This is a plausible origin of belieflike representations. These representation are reliable insofar as family relations are rather stable and don’t change drastically over time. This is evidence for SIH.
Memory demands: the recognition of other demands recognitional capacities and memory. For, an agent’s own status depends not only on sheer size and strength but also on her social network.
Social learning: primates manifests some form of social learning. Different animals in their group have overlapping information about their environment (cf. Dennett “information gradient”). Social Intelligence
A social map is an important tool for a social animal, for it allows representation not tied to specific responses but also of possible actions.
The social intelligence hypothesis is not simply a good explanation of the evolution of the cognitive architecture pictured by folk psychology. It is also a good explanation of the emergence of the interpretative capacities themselves. For the demand of social life forces the great apes to interpret other agents by tracking their psychological states (e.g. detect cheaters).
The increasing demand of social life drives the evolution of agents with intentional psychology for they need: (i) rich representations, (ii) decoupled representations, and (iii) control of actions. Great Apes and Imitation
They may have been capable of tracking other agents mental states within their social group without having a theory of mind or mind
reading capacity. They cognitive skill may not depend centrally on a psychological model of other agents. It may rest on their learning by imitation.
Imitation is not necessarily a theory of mind task, but it is a cognitively sophisticated one. To successfully interact in a social world a chimp/great ape need not have developed believes about believes as the social intelligence hypothesis suggests. A behavior program enabling them to learn by imitation may suffice. Thus a primate/great ape storing protoinformation of the sort:
If A hears a noise like so, A will act like this
where ‘so’ is a sensory specification of the noise and ‘this’ is a specific motor pattern. E.g.: Bonobos appease angry behavior by trading sex (see Waal).
E.g.: Bonobos appease angry behavior by trading sex (see Waal).
Two explanations: (i) social intelligence hypothesis claims that they track psychological states (angry); (ii) it may be that angermediated behavior have a distinctive sensory signature and that bonobos merely responds to it. They thus track the sensory cue, not the psychological state.
Experiments (Piovinelli) show that chimps don’t track attention: they have only rudimentary capacities for registering attention. Hence if they are incapable of registering attention they are a fortiori unable to read other chimps minds.
Chimps also have difficulties tracking/understanding pointing.
The chimps understanding of attention depends on automatic and quasiperceptual mechanisms. Moral
The basic idea of social intelligence hypothesis is right. Social interaction is strategic and the fact that there is a feedback loop build into the picture of cognitive evolution makes it easy to understand that social intelligence was an important element of primate cognitive evolution and that social life was an important driver of the evolution of belieflike states in our lineage.
Human social complexity, though, much exceeds that of great apes. So if apes social life does not require them to have a theory of mind, this may not be true of humans social life.
These considerations do some work to bridge the gap between social and psychological competence. Behavioral abilities vs. intentional agents
Questions: (i) what distinguish a habit machine from an intentional agent?, (ii) what selective advantages do these abilities confer?
Intentional agents represent the goals of their own actions. Intentional agents have a utility function, not just drive.
Intentional agents, unlike habit machines, can learn what is good for them. Reconstructing Hominid Evolution
Methodology (Cosmides & Toby):
1. Consider the problem our ancestors would have needed to solve, given their way of life and environment (i.e. foraging and hunter gathering in the Pleistocene)
2. Develop a theory of the cognitive mechanisms needed to solve those problems
3. Specify the ways such mechanisms would be manifested in development and behavior
4. Once (3) is complete, deploy the experimental techniques of developmental, cognitive, and social psychology to test for those mechanism’s presence. If they are discovered that confirm the scenario of (1) and (2). Cosmides & Toby:
We evolved in social environment characterized by a good deal of social cooperation with the capacity to detect cheaters.
We should reason well about social exchanges and we do.
We have an adaptive specialization for social exchanges and detection of cheaters.
Cooperation and group selection/development, as we saw, must have plaid a crucial role. Cognitive and social innovations that support a system of rewards and punishment form the key to the human cooperation explosion (Sober & Wilson). The Modularity Hypothesis
Evolutionary psychology presupposes that our mind cognitive capacities rests on an ensemble of specificpurpose computational mechanisms. I.e. we come preequipped with cognitive modules adapted to solve specific problems pertaining to our biological, social, and physical environment. Main example is language (Chomsky, Fodor, Pinker, etc.). Yet the function making modular theories of language plausible are distinctive and not shared by other domains. Thus massively modular theories of mind should not be based on the example of language.
Chomsky thought that we don’t learn language via a generalpurpose learning mechanism. We don’t learn language, language instinct, language organ, poverty of the stimulus,…. Syntax and Intentions
From an evolutionary perspective language developed as a mean of transmitting beliefs/decoding information. At this stage syntactic interpretation is crucial.
In a second stage it also developed as a mean of ordering, cheating, etc. At his stage people must interpret what one says, not merely decode the message.
We thus must distinguish understanding from acceptance. The language module plays an important role in the interpretation but the view cannot be generalized since at this level of interpretation there is no treat of deception. This level of interpretation merely depends on the independence of the organizational feature of language from its content. Hybrid modularity (Fodor)
Some decision problems, unlike language and perception, are not suitable for a modular solution. Some problems are informationally bounded while other are informationally open. (e.g. jealousy). We have hybrid mental architectures.
We have in common a set of specialized cognitive capacities. These explain our fast, autonomous and fairly uniform performance on input tasks.
We also have central processors whose ontogeny and operation is very different from that of a module.
Our modules have epistemic limits while we don’t. Domain specificity
Evolutionary psychologists (Cosmides & Toby) take it to be the defining criterion of a module.
A domain corresponds to related sets of adaptive problems (which the agent must solve to survive and reproduce) environment pose for agents. (e.g. of defined domains: foraging, evading predators, choosing mates, …)
Modules evolved as a reflection of the specific informationprocessing problems defined by these domains.
Modules are also adaptive specializations. General purpose capacities play a relatively minor role in explaining the distinctive features of human cognition (Sperber denies the existence of a central processor at all). Massive modularity
If the massive modularity view is right we should expect (i) cognitive variations across different problems and (ii) relatively muted variations across human groups.
1. Variability. When human faces problems for which they lack biological preparation they should show cognitive blindness. The commitment to innate module goes with the commitment to the existence of cognitive limits. We can manage money and bank account, for instance, even if they are recent phenomenon because modules can be sensitive to input for which they have not been specifically designed (e.g.: our resource assessment module may recognize money as a resource).
At the right level of analysis, crosscultural commonalities emerge (e.g.: religious practices). Argument for Massive Modularity (Sperber)
Loosening the domain of a module does not create greater flexibility but great danger in the organism’s response to a problem (e.g.: if an organism has a module detector avoiding being smashed by elephants it is unlikely that this module will be as operative if it generalizes, i.e. a mutation in the module would create greater danger for the organism).
Sperber suggests that radical changes in the environment may have generated quite a dramatic disjunction between the domain for which a device is currently used and the reasoning task which explains its evolution (the elephants module detector may end up detecting rhinos or trains). The module gradually acquires a new function.
Sperber’s tale takes place in an unrealistic transparent environment. If we take on board noises and errors, it may be that the elephants detector generalizes as a less specified module, i.e. can develop to greater or less level of encapsulation (Sperber’s original module detects both elephants and rhinos, but it becomes more suited to detect rhinos than elephants). The poverty of the stimulus argument, PSA
It is probably the main argument favoring the massive modularity hypothesis.
Words could not be learned from the information available to children by generalpurpose learning systems.
The ontogeny of the competence is relatively independent of exposure to information: various information don’t generate variations in development (we have crosscultural uniformity).
Since it is hard to develop from experience the right concept to describe the data, language is likely to be an eccentric stimulus domain (Fodor) because the salience features of utterances are unlikely to be evident to our general perceptual and cognitive mechanism. Two interpretations of the PSA.
1. Nativism. The information deficit is made up by information build into the mind.
2. Perceptual specializations. The information deficit is made up by special perceptual tuning to salient features of that domain.
Hence we have two evolutionary responses, i.e. cognitive development or perceptual development. ...
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- Fall '07
- Philosophy, Sperber, social intelligence hypothesis