When: Friday 8 December, 6-7pm
Who: Institute of Philosophy
Where: The Chancellor’s Hall, First Floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
Evolutionary psychology casts the human mind as a collection of cognitive instincts – organs of thought shaped by genetic evolution and constrained by the needs of our Stone Age ancestors. This picture was plausible 25 years ago but, I argue, it no longer fits the facts. Research involving infants and nonhuman animals now suggests that genetic evolution has merely tweaked the human mind, making us more friendly than the pre-human ancestors, more attentive to other agents, and giving us souped-up, general-purpose mechanisms of leaning, memory and control. Using these resources, our special-purpose organs of thought are built in the course of development through social interaction. They are products of cultural rather than genetic evolution; cognitive gadgets rather than cognitive instincts.
Ceclia Heyes is a senior research fellow in Theoretical Life Science, and professor of psychology, at All Souls College, University of Oxford. She was educated at UCL and, after postdoctoral research as a Harkness Fellow in the United States, and at the University of Cambridge, she taught at UCL for many years. A philosophical psychologist, her research interests focus on the evolution of cognition; the ways that natural selection, developmental and cultural processes conspire to produce adult human minds. She is a fellow of the British Academy.
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