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Re: [ontolog-forum] Cultural variation in cognitive machinery

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ali Hashemi <ali.hashemi+ontolog@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 2010 23:26:53 -0400
Message-id: <p2t5ab1dc971004292026ge00ecbbv3ad03bfe64606f6c@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Folks, I hate to resurrect a dead thread, but I finally got one of my machines where I'm at, which means I got access to my archives... Please bear with me, I'm only sharing relevant reading for anyone who's interested.



You're absolutely right, this isn't the best way to conduct discourse. I appreciate the sources you mention, and would like to add a number more.

I would be happy to disagree with Pat if I thought we were actually talking about the same thing, but he has criticized something which has little to do with what I've exposited. And I actually agree with the criticism of what he thinks I've been claiming! I just haven't been claiming it ;).


I'll put this "arduous communication" down to a limitation of the current medium which makes it difficult for us to be able to effectively share our thoughts. Over a beer or two, or perhaps with some more clarified background, what I've been trying to communicate might actually get through, and perhaps then, we could actually disagree :D!

[PH] The original claim, to which I reacted, was that the way we **learn to think** is culturally dependent. I take this to be a claim about developmental psychology, and perhaps (with less emphasis on the 'learn') about cognitive psychology in general.

Interesting. Nowhere have I made the first claim you think I have - I have absolutely no idea where you got that impression. 

[PH]I would take a lot of convincing, but perhaps some psychological experiments which clearly indicated a difference in actual modes of thinking between populations in different cultural settings. As I say, I have never seen any (convincing) such demonstrations. Observations along the lines that cultures are culturally different do not make the cut.

Great! See below for a start...

The ideas I've mentioned are well grounded in copious amounts of literature. In the forum posts, I added a couple of minor twists alluding to extensions to logic, but they're secondary. The papers below are only a glimpse of some of the supporting literature; I'll actually refrain from further posts on this topic until I write up something more shareable (ie write in a more standard medium, not forum posts, but say journal article styles)

Further reading:

Metaphors (Point to overlap / interaction between sense and domain knowledge)

Work on how metaphors affect our thinking, and become ingrained in our analysis of situations
*Marcel Danesi (2002) "Abstract Concept-Formation As Metaphorical Layering"
Studies In Communication Sciences 2/1 (2002) 1-22

More on metaphor and thinking:
*S Pinker (2007)- The Stuff of Thought - Penguin Group (Viking Press)

and of course, when talking about metaphor and thinking. They've got a few good examples in here. How some cultures view "argument as war" and have increasingly fortified positions, whereas others view it as "dance" and work more collaboratively.
*G Lakoff & M Johnson (1980) - Metaphors We Live By - Chicago University Press

Cognitive Neuroscience

The spillover between sensory motor systems and cognition.
*Susan Hurley "Perception And Action: Alternative Views"
Synthese 129 (2001) 3-40.

More on the spill over between sensory motor system and cognition.
*Vittorio Gallese & George Lakoff (2005) "The Brain’s Concepts: The Role Of The Sensory-Motor System In Conceptual Knowledge"
Cognitive Neuropsychology, 2005, 22 (3/4), 455–479

Some research suggesting that we use our motor system metaphorically to learn about novel domains
*Llinas, RR; Leznik, E; Makarenko, VI. (2004) "The olivo-cerebellar circuit as a universal motor control system".
IEEE journal of oceanic engineering
. 2004; 29: 631

A high level overview
*Llinas R. "Progress in Brain Research: Epilogue". Progress in brain research. 2004; 148: 393

Perception, Tools, Culture and Habituation

On the habituation and internalization of views through repeated interaction with the world
*Stratton, G.(1897)  "Vision without inversion of the retinal image" Psychol Rev; 4 pp. 341-
60, 463-81.

On the effects of culture and _expression_ of ideas in art
*McLuhan, M. Parker, H. (1968) Through the vanishing point: space in poetry and painting.
Harper and Row, New York

On the effects of culture and perception
*Jonathan Treitel (1984) Correspondence.
Nature 308, 580 (12 April 1984) | doi:10.1038/308580d0

Some clarification on an interpretation of cognitive process
*Lonergan BJ. (1958) Insight Darton, Longman and Todd, London

More on how the tools we use shape how we think about whatever it is we're interacting with through that tool
*Ames, A Jr. "Visual perception and the rotating trapezoidal window"
Psychological Monographs (1951); 65, whole no. 324.

Connotations and Semiotics

Almost embarrassed to include this next one.. but I I'm starting to worry about the fact that the connection to "connotations" in semiotics has not been noticed...
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connotation_%28semiotics%29 )
e.g. "Bob is in Florida."  What this sentence denotes has not changed in the last 1000 years, but the connotations have. Perhaps Pat is arguing that connotations play no significant role in cognition?

*Barthes, Roland. Elements of Semiology (trans. Annette Lavers & Colin Smith). London: Jonathan Cape. (1967).

The title of the next work is self-explanatory:
*Jonathan Bignell (1997) Media Semiotics - An Introduction. Manchester University Press, Manchester.

Rationality, Decision Making and Emotions
the field of economics, persuasion, marketing etc. have abundant literature on how emotion affects thinking, i.e.:

How emotion affects decision making (i.e. the criteria that we use to decide what is reasonable / appropriate / desirable)
*Loewenstein, G. & Learner, J. S. (2003) "The Role of Affect in Decision Making"
In R. J. Davidson, K. R. Scherer, & H. H. Goldsmith (Eds.), 2003 Handbook of affective sciences. Oxford: Oxford University Press.(pp.619-642).

How depending on what frame of mind we are in, and what cues we respond to, we will decide differently..
*Itamar Simonson (1989) "Choice Based on Reasons: The Case of Attraction and Compromise Effects"
Journal of Consumer Research September 1989, Vol. 16, No. 2: pp. 158

On how what you do affects how you think and can carry over into the next task
*Jennifer S. Lerner, D Small and G Loewenstein (2004) "Heart Strings and Purse Strings - Carryover Effects of Emotions on Economic Decisions"
Journal of Psychological Science,  vol. 15  no. 5  337-341

*H J Einhorn, and R M Hogarth (1981) - "Behavioral Decision Theory: Processes of Judgement and Choice"
Annual Review of Psychology Vol. 32: 53-88

you don't need to accept that fast food is correlated to impatience (I dont believe it either, there were too many holes in the experiment, but it raises good questions) to accept that,  if what you do affects your emotions / temperament / disposition, then you'll reason differently than you would otherwise...



On Mon, Apr 19, 2010 at 10:32 AM, John F. Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
Pat, Ali, and anyone else who might still be listening,

Trading opinions about poorly defined terms that various people
interpret in different ways is never going to converge.

I'd like to recommend some books by people who have actually
done research on related topics and have some useful facts
to add to the speculation.

The first book is a collaboration by two authors -- a psychiatrist
who spent many years in studying the psychology of young children,
especially from the ages of zero to three, and a philosopher who
had been highly skeptical about the claims of apes learning to
use language-like symbols until he spent an extended period of
time actually working with them:

   Greenspan, Stanley I., & Stuart G. Shanker (2004) _The First
   Idea:  How Symbols, Language, and Intelligence Evolved from
   Our Primate Ancestors to Modern Humans_, Da Capo Press,
   Cambridge, MA.

The second book is a good summary of the recent research on
the Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons (up to the end of 2008):

   Fagan, Brian (2010) _Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth
   to the First Modern Humans_, Bloomsbury Press, New York.

My only criticism of Fagan's book is based on issues discussed
by Greenspan and Shanker:  Fagan tends to underestimate the
abilities of the Neanderthals because their technology was
not as advanced as the newcomers who came from Africa.

But much of that difference in technology could be explained
by the fact that the Neanderthal society in Europe was much
smaller than the societies in Africa, which was a much larger
continent with a much more diverse range of climates and
environments.  The greater number of interactions in Africa
would have stimulated an enormous amount of the innovation.

Fagan admits that point, but I believe that he underestimates
its importance.  Just look at the difference between the
European technology and the indigenous technology in the
Americas and Australia.


Founding Director, www.reseed.ca

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