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Mindreading and Culture 1 Social Minds
Our minds are adapted for social reasoning.
We have a persistency to anthropomorphize; we react to objects as they’re intentional agents;….
We don’t have to decide whether to interpret another person’s movement as action: we do so automatically.
No inferential reasoning, no analogy reasoning,…
2 Interpretative competence is dissociated from other aspects of human cognition. This suggest the presence of a module operating independently of other cognitive faculties. 3 The module presence, is reinforced by studies on autism and schizophrenia. Autism is characterized by the incapacity to read other people mind but leaves other cognitive capacities intact. This suggests that the interpretative capacity is dissociated from other cognitive capacities (cf. argument from aphasia in favor of the language module).
4 Arguments for Modularity
Two capacities are dissociated if one can be lost and the other retained. There is thus informational and operational autonomy. E.g.: aphasia proves that linguistic skills can be lost while other don’t; thus there is a language module. 5 The same for our capacity to interpret others: if it can be dissociated from general intelligence, it proves the existence of an interpretative module, i.e. a theory of mind module, ToM. 6 High functioning autists seem to prove this. E.g.: high functioning autistic children fail the false
belief task, yet they pass the falsephotography task (where a photo is taken from a scene which get subsequently changed … the autistic children will say that the picture will be of the previous scene). 7 2. Poverty of the Stimulus
Children become competent reasoners about mental state even if they cannot see, hear, or feel them (cf. blind children). 8 Poverty of the stimulus
A child may acquire a language even though the data itself is too poor to determine the language: the child needs no evidence for much of the knowledge she brings to the learning situation. Children acquire language from pidgin.
Roughly, children always make the right ‘hypotheses’ as a function of their genetic endowment.
9 Since the child can fixate on any language in the face of a poverty of stimulus about each language and since all languages are equally acquirable, children all begin with the same universal linguistic knowledge. This is the essence of the poverty of stimulus argument. 10 The poverty of the stimulus argument does not tell us:
1. What information is innate.
2. How the innate information is represented in the mind/brain.
3. Whether the information is available to a general learning mechanism or specific to a dedicated one (i.e. general intelligence or language module). These issues are to be decided by the normal scientific route of the testing and comparison of hypotheses.
11 Simulation Theory (ST) vs. ToM
Either the great apes represent the action of their conspecifics in intentional terms or they represent them in terms of bodily motion.
Even without a rudimentary theory of folk psychology we wouldn’t see other agents as mere bulk of skin, but as animate, selfmoving creatures with functionally organized behavior.
12 Simulation theory The behavior of others is interpreted and predicted by using our own decisionmaking procedure as model for others.
Advantages: ST fits the phenomenology of agency insofar as we often understand others by imagining ourselves in their situation. If ST is right it also frees us from the burden of calculation and discovery. ST is a less intelligence
At most ST presents a supplement to the representational theory of representation. We often take into account differences between our thoughts and the ones of other agents.
E.g.: we can understand/adjust our expectations, predictions, etc. of agents from other cultures.
ST looks more plausible when seen as part of a hybrid. It need to be combined with account of the information agents use to guide their simulations.
14 But why need that information be in the form of a theory?
If our information about others was a mere form of empirical generalizations from our experience, then we could not predict the behavior of agents in novel situations. 15 Folk Psychology
Can be seen (Sterelny) as a form of guided learning instead of a full blooded theory. As such, it is sensitive to development. Would it be similar to Chomsky’s LAD? 16 In favor of the view that folk psychology is a full blooded theory people (Scholl & Leslie) mentions the: 1. uniform outcomes: all individuals across cultures manifest (with the exception of psychological pathologies) a more or less identical folk psychology.
2. Insensitivity of development to learning abilities: the development of folk psychology seems insensitive to differences in general learning abilities.
17 But folk psychology (FP) can be learned. There are important differences, though, on the way FP is learned and ordinary learning.
The acquisition is developmentally entrenched. But most of this developmental buffering is in the environment rather than the genome.
18 3.The process of development is insensitive to evidence: This campaign against the learning of FP. If FP is insensitive to evidence it cannot be learned.
But richer environment (linguistically and socially) accelerate the development (e.g. children pass the falsebelief test a bit faster). This difference, though, is only of timing not of degree.
19 Vs. Evolutionary Psychology (Sterelny)
“The idea that the human mind consists of an ensemble of domainspecific, innately specified, cognitive mechanisms that are adaptations to specific ecological and social problems of Pleistocene foraging is a radical oversimplification of the pattern of hominid evolution. … It exaggerates the importance of evolution of specific adaptations to specific problems, and ignores adaptations to variability itself.”
20 The evolution of some important aspects of hominid cognition are perceptual and affective mechanisms. This may explain for instance a particular preference of waist to hip ratio, and other phenomenon discussed by evolutionary psychology. 21 Humans inherits much more than genes from past generations. These informationtransmitting inheritances are humanspecific. Hence we cannot easily apply evolutionary models built for other species.
Cultural evolution ….
22 Cumulative niche constructions
Behavioral innovations can trigger cascades of further changes that entrench the new behavior (e.g. lactose tolerance because of a new diet).
The increasing cultural differentiation generated by cumulative niche construction made the boundaries between groups less permeable. 23 The importance of dual inheritance.
Human inherits both genes and culture from their parents. This is an important factor in accelerating changes.
For dual inheritance to work, group selection must be powerful, for the fidelity of transmission depends both on individual psychological adaptations (importance of learning) and developmental environment.
Hence, culture contributes in shaping nature.
24 The Theory of Evolution
The determiner ‘the’ is the problem. We don’t have a single theory, but a set of complex views with various degrees of certainty (Christians fundamentalists exploit that in favoring design …). 25 Evidence for evolution
Evidence of related structures E.g.: the structure of mammalian forelimbs. The wing of the bat, the flipper of the whale and the human arm all share the same bones organized for different functions.
26 2. Fossils They can be dated and show sequences of organisms from currently unknown forms to familiar forms.
I.e., the geographical relationships between organisms of different kinds (e.g. Darwin finches who have been blown to different places and in the absence of competitors evolves differently).
27 Natural Selection
Evolution by natural selection is Darwin’s great contribution. This is understood via the idea of heritable variations of fitness, i.e. the disposition to produce surviving offspring. If organisms differ in fitness some will have more offspring than others.
28 If fitness is heritable, and the features that ground differences in fitness are pass down from generation to generation then features conveying fitness will become more common. We’ll thus have changes in populations …
What exactly it is what natural selection select?
Dawkins claims that are not organisms but genes, i.e. the prevalence of genes that were most efficient at reproducing themselves.
29 The selfish gene
The organism is a mere vehicle built by genes in order to project themselves most effectively into the next generation. 30 Group selection
It’s the view that certain features of organisms favoring conspecifics rather than themselves have been produced by selection between groups of organisms.
Unselfish groups survive better than those composed by merely selfish individuals. 31 The selection of genes is insufficient to explain the complexity of the evolutionary process.
Selection occurs simultaneously at many levels, including the gene and the individual and possibly also the group and the species. 32 Multilevel selection
It is probably the current orthodoxy among philosophers of biology.
It rejects the idea that it is possible to separate out specific set of objects involved in a certain stage of the evolutionary process. 33 An influential version of this perspective is the developmental system theory.
It provides a powerful criticism of the gene
centeredness (genes are not special or unique). Genes don’t carry information, nor present a plan or a blueprint. They only provide reliable predictions about the state of another organism. 34 Other factors must be taken into consideration. E.g.: The sun help tomatoes getting red. The mere genetic structure of tomatoes does not make them to become red.
Lot of factors intervenes in the development of an organism. 35 If the multifactors view is right, the divorce between evolution and development cannot be consumed.
Evolution and development works together. 36 Difficulties with evolutionary explanations
1. Adaptations vs. exaptations
The distinction between the views that typically: (i) traits of organisms evolved because they serve some function that they can be seen now to promote, and (ii) the organism put the traits to a use that is different from that which explains its selection.
37 Expactation isn’t just an anomaly that occasionally derails. It is a feature of almost any interesting explanation.
E.g.: the mammalian lung from swimbladders. I.e. the mammalian lung developed gradually out of the organs that ancestral fish used to keep them afloat. 38 To evolve an organ to doing X an organism must start with an organ or structure that evolved to do Y E.g.: the giraffes’ long neck or the peacocks’ tail.
The neck first evolved to support the head …. 39 2. Organisms are integrated systems
Hence, changes to one trait will cause correlative changes to other traits and these will have positive and negative effects on fitness. Even the traits that are the primary focus of attention will have many fitness effects. 40 General lesson
Given the problem with the multiple exaptations and the multiplicity of interconnections we may end up to being capable to give only some hints or suggestions.
We may be incapable to provide more than a fragment of the truth. Modesty
We may have a modest but not completely vacuous conception of evolutionary explanation.
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