Thursday, November 17, 2005

Dan Sperber on the Evolution of Culture

I found this talk given by Dan Sperber. He is an anthropologist with some very interesting ideas about how cognitive structures and microprocesses effect the transmission of thought and the evolution of culture. What he says bears some relevance to my post on The Mind-Brain Feedback Loop. Click here to see the video, or here to just read the transcript.

Heres how the talk begins:

What I want to know is how, in an evolutionary perspective, social cultural phenomena relate to psychological mental phenomena.

The social and the psychological sciences,when they emerged as properly scholarly disciplines with their own departments in the nineteenth century took quite different approaches, adopted different methodologies, asked different questions. Psychologists lost sight of the fact that what's happening in human minds is always informed by the culture in which individuals grow. Social scientists lost sight of the fact that the transmission, the maintenance, and the transformation of culture takes place not uniquely but in part in these individual psychological processes. This means that if what you're studying is culture, the part played by the psychological moments, or episodes, in the transmission of culture should be seen as crucial. I find it unrealistic to think of culture as something hovering somehow above individuals — culture goes through them, and through their minds and their bodies and that is, in good part, where culture is being made.


Interesting stuff - thanks for the link.

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