File Name: tools language and cognition in human evolution .zip
Evidence of cultural influences on cognition is accumulating, but untangling these cultural influences from one another or from non-cultural influences has remained a challenging task.
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About us. Stay updated. Corporate Social Responsiblity. Investor Relations. Review a Brill Book. Making Sense of Illustrated Handwritten Archives. Using a model of cognition as extended and enactive, we examine the role of materiality in making minds as exemplified by lithics and writing, forms associated with conceptual thought and meta-awareness of conceptual domains.
We address ways in which brain functions may change in response to interactions with material forms, the attributes of material forms that may cause such change, and the spans of time required for neurofunctional reorganization.
We also offer three hypotheses for investigating co-influence and change in cognition and material culture. Dolphins and bluefin tuna, as philosopher Andy Clark pointed out in , have a greater-than-predicted swimming efficiency. This may aptly describe the human adaptation as well, though our analog is material culture. That is, for both sea creature speeding through water and ourselves maneuvering and manipulating the physical world, cognition is extended i.
Characterizing cognition as a dynamically interacting system lets us consider the material as both agentive influence upon and partner to our psychological and behavioral capabilities and capacities Malafouris, , Over time, interaction with material forms can change psychological processing and behaviors. Here we examine two case studies in which this occurs: first, the emergence of literacy from the behavior of writing, which ultimately yielded meta-awareness of conceptual domains, and second, change in lithic technologies and associated behaviors that may index the emergence of conceptual thought.
We focus on behavioral and psychological change resulting from interactions with material forms while we acknowledge the genetic, environmental, and selective components of evolution, our inquiry is not how brains make tools but rather how tools make minds. We ground our analyses of the archaeological record in neuroscientific understandings of brain form and function. We suggest that 1 change in material forms imply change in particular brain functions, 2 material attributes and properties cause such changes, and 3 such changes are experientially imperceptible.
We conclude with three hypotheses for investigating co-influence and change in cognition and material culture. This is perhaps the result of the difference in dynamism, not in the organism—environment interaction per se but in the environment itself, as water changes more immediately and perceptibly than do material objects under forces like invention, preference, wear, and age.
Yet despite the seeming stasis of the material realm, our interaction with it is no less dynamic — no less fluid — than that between fish and water: we too connect, exploit, and disconnect with the material forms around us. Another reason the parallels are unobvious lies in the disparate temporalities of dynamic interactivity and accumulated change.
The former is experienced in the moment; the latter takes years to millennia or longer to accumulate. The temporalities of change, which can span generations, tend to put it beyond our experience. Dynamic interactivity and accumulated change are not distinct, however, but connect and coalesce in the moment, where interactivity becomes collectivized and distributed within groups and societies. One of the mechanisms whereby this occurs is our use of materiality as a collaborative medium.
As agent, partner, and collaborative medium, material artifacts interact with our psychological and physical abilities to pattern, habituate, and automate behaviors and skills, not only in individuals but in communities and societies as well.
People who learn to drive or read and write become capable of manipulating particular material forms with specific bodily movements e. Artifacts also help us decompose tasks and problems into smaller chunks Hodder, , which become easier to solve, especially collaboratively: not only are smaller problems generally easier to solve than larger ones, but decomposition facilitates the recruitment of potential problem solvers, and chunks can be distributed among individuals with different knowledge and skills Hutchins, Artifacts also accumulate social and cultural knowledge in ways that mediate between what societies know and individuals learn Haas, and which distribute cognitive effort over space and time, increasing the knowledge and decreasing the effort required by any particular individual or generation Hutchins, Thus, we do not reinvent navigation or numbers, but rather learn, apply, and extend knowledge encoded in devices like the compass and abacus.
Interaction with material forms can also repurpose existing brain functions, as for example, training the fusiform gyrus to recognize written objects, cultural functionality that leverages an evolved role in recognizing physical objects Dehaene et al.
What may be overlooked in neuronal recycling, however, is that learning to read and write means acquiring the ability to interact with a material form that is capable of eliciting particular behavioral and psychological responses, capability developed and refined through centuries of collaborative, distributed use Overmann, , The developmental process additionally ensures that as the material form is refined toward increasing effectiveness, it remains synchronized to average behavioral and psychological capabilities Overmann, Certainly, writing underwent significant change in form: in Mesopotamia, initial signs with approximate semantic values and little-to-no phonetic specification became script capable of expressing the meanings and sounds of specific languages with fidelity Hyman, ; Overmann, ; Sampson, The iterative process of developing literacy and script from behaviors like handwriting and viewing conventionalized signs provides insight into ways that cognition and material culture can influence and change one another.
It also raises intriguing possibilities for investigating co-influence and change in the more remote past. Investigating the remote past is challenging, as neither cognition nor behavior can be directly observed or tested in extinct species. One can observe and measure the neurological function and structure of closely related non-humans Nieder, ; Orban et al.
For extinct species, behaviors and cognition can be inferred from the archaeological and fossil records, and the archaeological record attests material change. One such theoretical issue is a lingering Cartesian division of brains from material forms Malafouris, If brains make tools, less well recognized is the potential for tools to influence behaviors and psychological processing Malafouris, ; Fig.
This appears to have been the case with how literacy developed from handwriting, an interaction with a material form that yielded specific reorganizations and transformations to the human cognitive architecture Overmann, ; Fig. However, psychological— behavioral—material co-influence means that exact originating causes are often difficult to determine amidst multiple interacting variables, especially given the incompleteness and uncertainty of insight into events occurring in the remote past.
Pinning down a prime mover is also perhaps unnecessary, since co-influence can be mutually reinforcing, and the resultant trajectories of change may have emergent effects that influence and intensify further change Hodder, ; Overmann, One strategy, however, is starting from what our ancestors shared with contemporary species — which is making, using, and discarding tools as an implicit part of behaviors associated with things like obtaining food — and then asking how and why interactions with tools might have changed behaviors and psychological processing over time, as inferred from change in material forms.
Citation: Journal of Cognition and Culture 19, ; The oldest artifacts able to inform scholarship about the evolution of hominin cognition are stones and bones: tools made of stone and the attendant debris of their manufacture and use, including bits of bones with marks on them from tools or teeth. Stone tools were not likely to have been the only forms of material culture used by early hominins early Homo , and possibly the Australopithecus , nor butchery their only application, but stones and bones are what preserve over millions of years, along with teeth.
Nonetheless, stone tools provide a surprising amount of insight into human cognitive evolution. The first, dating to between 2. These tools appear to have been made, used, and discarded during processes of food extraction e. Like modern non-human primates, these early hominins do not appear to have separated tools from their processes of use. By about 1. Hominins shaped some of their stone tools symmetrically, producing artifacts known as bifaces Beyene et al.
Bifacial symmetry may have had its roots in the process of stone knapping the conventional term for flaking stone itself. In addition to ergonomic features, they also attended to visual features of the core itself, often accentuating the oblong form into a bilateral symmetry.
In other words, hominins no longer made tools shaped just enough to get the job done i. Instead, they attended to design features and relationships within the form objects whose internal features and relations were ends in themselves. Making these tools entailed sustained attention to their features e. It was the engagement of earlier hominins with stone tools themselves that, arguably, acted as a scaffold for the development of a tool concept.
Little of this interaction is visible in the archaeological record, but there are provocative hints. We know, for example, that even early on i. Close examination of cores implicates developments in attention, and carrying provided a temporal extension to tools and related activities to produce a curation in fact, if not yet in mind. Potential sequelae of these developments are with us still.
Today we find the human intraparietal sulcus has non-homologous regions specialized for representing aspects of visual stimuli Orban et al. The importance of such parietal functions to both tools and concepts is significant, given that parietal enlargement is the single characteristic best differentiating the human brain from the brains of other primates, including ancestral species like H.
Evidence that motor movements and conceptual thought are related is also found in the cerebellum, another potential difference between the brains of H. The trajectory of change associated with stone tools suggests that the use of material objects as an implicit part of behaviors is not what differentiates humans, since this is shared with both ancestral and modern species. What may more truly distinguish us is us our ability to think about materiality — to form concepts of materiality in its absence, and to form concepts in seeming independence of any materiality — differences in behaviors and, plausibly, psychological processing associated with the curated tools of Homo erectus.
Today our neurons form and manipulate concepts as if our bodies were behaviorally engaged with physically present materials. That is, the neural muscles that enable us to think about material forms emerged, at least in part, through several million years of patient stone knapping by ancestral species.
If stone tools actualized the ability to form and manipulate concepts mentally, as if they were physical objects, writing might be said to have actualized the ability to form and manipulate concepts physically , as if they were mental objects. The material form is writing, and change in its form over time represents change in behaviors and brains. Interpreting this particular change in material form through the neuroscience of literacy suggests the following: handwriting taught brains to recognize characters by combinations of their local and global features and to associate them with the meanings and sounds of language.
These training effects influenced change in the material form: for example, feature recognition relaxed the need for pictures to resemble the original objects, allowing them to become less depictive over time Overmann,
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PDF | On Jan 1, , I. Davidson and others published Tools and evolution reflected developments in brains and cognition: Put simply.
The Oxford Handbook of Language Evolution presents critical accounts of every aspect of the field.
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Tools, Language and Cognition in Human Evolution. $ (P). Authors: Kathleen R. Gibson, University of Texas Health Science Center.Edtisarest1998 20.03.2021 at 17:37
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