Social Science Bites

Celia Heyes on Cognitive Gadgets Social Science Bites
LISTEN TO CELIA HEYES NOW!

Celia Heyes on Cognitive Gadgets

June 1, 2018 5607

Celia Heyes

LISTEN TO CELIA HEYES NOW!

How did humans diverge so markedly from animals? Apart from physical things like our “physical peculiarities,” as experimental psychologist Celia Heyes puts it, or our fine motor control, there’s something even more fundamentally – and cognitively — different.

“I suppose at the broadest level,” Heyes tells interviewer David Edmonds in this Social Science Bites podcast, “we differ from animals because we are so ultra-social, so intensely cooperative. And as a result, we’ve transformed our environments, for good or ill, more radically than any other species through things like agriculture, technology, science, but also, law, trade to the point of economies and finance, fine arts, sports, all of these things.”

Heyes, a senior research fellow in theoretical life sciences at All Souls College, University of Oxford, argues that we’ve evolved those differences, or “innate modules.” That may sound like evolutionary psychology, which suggests that many of these traits are pre-coded into humans — “we get them for free,” as Heyes translates — and therefore are minimally dependent on what we experience in childhood. While Heyes appreciates the evolutionary aspect of natural selection and agrees there is some sort of genetic starter kit,” but she says the locus of evolution is not genetic but cultural.

She points to things like cross-cultural differences in beliefs and behavior or the ability to read, which hasn’t had time to be genetically encoded (even if it can be observed lighting up only certain parts of the brain) but it can have evolved culturally.

Heyes’ research and theories place her all over the academic map, but she describes herself as “part biologist, part philosopher, but I am first and foremost a psychologist.” A fellow of the British Academy and president of the Experimental Psychology Society, her latest book is the brand new Cognitive Gadgets: The Cultural Evolution of Thinking from Harvard University Press.

To download an MP3 of this podcast, right-click HERE and save.

***

For a complete listing of past Social Science Bites podcasts, click HERE. You can follow Bites on Twitter @socialscibites and David Edmonds @DavidEdmonds100.


Welcome to the blog for the Social Science Bites podcast: a series of interviews with leading social scientists. Each episode explores an aspect of our social world. You can access all audio and the transcripts from each interview here. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @socialscibites.

View all posts by Social Science Bites

Related Articles

Rob Ford on Immigration
Public Policy
June 3, 2024

Rob Ford on Immigration

Read Now
Tavneet Suri on Universal Basic Income
Social Science Bites
May 1, 2024

Tavneet Suri on Universal Basic Income

Read Now
Alex Edmans on Confirmation Bias 
Social Science Bites
April 2, 2024

Alex Edmans on Confirmation Bias 

Read Now
Alison Gopnik on Care
Social Science Bites
March 4, 2024

Alison Gopnik on Care

Read Now
Tejendra Pherali on Education and Conflict

Tejendra Pherali on Education and Conflict

Tejendra Pherali, a professor of education, conflict and peace at University College London, researches the intersection of education and conflict around the world.

Read Now
Safiya Noble on Search Engines

Safiya Noble on Search Engines

In an age where things like facial recognition or financial software algorithms are shown to uncannily reproduce the prejudices of their creators, this was much less obvious earlier in the century, when researchers like Safiya Umoja Noble were dissecting search engine results and revealing the sometimes appalling material they were highlighting.

Read Now
Dimitris Xygalatas on Ritual

Dimitris Xygalatas on Ritual

In this Social Science Bites podcast, cognitive anthropologist Dimitris Xygalatas details how ritual often serves a positive purpose for individuals – synchronizing them with their communities or relieving their stress.

Read Now
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments