What Early Sapiens Cognition Can Teach Us: Untangling Cultural Influences on Human Cognition Across Time
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionFrontiers in Psychology. 2020, 11, 99. 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00099
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. As between-group differences are neither a sufficient nor a necessary indicator of cultural impact, cross-cultural comparisons in isolation are unable to furnish any cogent conclusions. This shortfall can be compensated by taking a diachronic perspective that focuses on the role of culture for the emergence and evolution of our cognitive abilities. Three strategies for reconstructing early human cognition are presented: the chaîne opératoire approach and its extension to brain-imaging studies, large-scale extrapolations, and phylogenetic comparative methods. While these strategies are reliant on our understanding of present-day cognition, they conversely also have the potential to advance this understanding in fundamental ways.