The Hermelin Lecture - "Cognitive Gadgets: The Cultural Evolution of Thinking"
Abstract: 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 in psychology and neuroscience - involving nonhuman animals, infants and adult humans - now suggests that genetic evolution has merely tweaked the human mind, making us more friendly than our pre-human ancestors, more attentive to other agents, and giving us souped-up, general-purpose mechanisms of learning, 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.
This year's Hermelin Lecture will be delivered by Cecilia Heyes - Senior Research Fellow in Theoretical Life Sciences and Professor of Psychology at All Souls College, University of Oxford. She trained as an experimental psychologist and philosopher before joining the faculty of University College London in 1988. Her group spent the next 20 years conducting experimental work on animal cognition and cognitive neuroscience. This included the development of an associative account of the origins of imitation and the mirror neuron system. At Oxford, she focuses on theoretical work on the evolution of cognition - exploring the ways that natural selection, learning and developmental and cultural processes combine to produce the mature cognitive abilities found in adult humans.
Prof Heyes is a Fellow of the British Academy and the Cognitive Science Society and President of the Experimental Psychology Society.
The Hermelin Lecture has been established to honour the life and work of the late Professor Beate Hermelin. Prof Hermelin was a pioneer in the experimental study of autism and was regarded by Sir Michael Rutter as "one of the most brilliantly innovative experimental psychologists of the day, as well as one of the most engaging individuals".
The Lecture will be followed by a drinks reception in the Whitehead Building.
All are welcome to attend. Please contact Dr Daniel Yon (email@example.com) if you require further details about this event.
Dates & times
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