The human mind has the capacity to vault over the realm of current perception, motivation, emotion, and action, to leap—consciously and deliberately—to past or future, possible or impossible, abstract or concrete scenarios and situations. In this book, Radu Bogdan examines the roots of this uniquely human ability, which he terms “mindvaulting.” He focuses particularly on the capacities of pretending and imagining, which he identifies as the first forms of mindvaulting to develop in childhood. Pretending and imagining, Bogdan argues, are crucial steps on the ontogenetic staircase to the intellect.
Bogdan finds that pretending and then imagining develop from a variety of sources for reasons that are specific and unique to human childhood. He argues that these capacities arise as responses to sociocultural and sociopolitical pressures that emerge at different stages of childhood. Bogdan argues that some of the properties of mindvaulting—including domain versatility and nonmodularity—resist standard evolutionary explanations. To resolve this puzzle, Bogdan reorients the evolutionary analysis toward human ontogeny, construed as a genuine space of evolution with specific pressures and adaptive responses. Bogdan finds that pretending is an ontogenetic response to sociocultural challenges in early childhood, a pre-adaptation for imagining; after age four, the adaptive response to cooperative and competitive sociopolitical pressures is a competence for mental strategizing that morphs into imagining.
About the Author
Radu J. Bogdan is Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Science and Director of the Cognitive Studies Program at Tulane University and Regular Guest Professor and Director of the OPEN MIND master program in cognitive science, University of Bucharest, Romania. He is the author of Interpreting Minds (1997), Minding Minds: Evolving a Reflexive Mind by Interpreting Others (2000), Predicative Minds: The Social Ontogeny of Propositional Thinking (2009) and Our Own Minds: Sociocultural Grounds for Self-Consciousness (2010), all published by the MIT Press.
“Mindvaults is an engaging exercise in armchair philosophizing about the nature of the human intellect. Bodgan’s scope of scholarship is broad, and his thinking is in line with the latest trends in evolutionary psychology and cognitive development. His arguments are cogent and refreshingly different, clearly the product of a rich imagination. This little book is packed full of new ideas for research, and it should definitely be on the summer reading list for all developmental scientists.”—PsycCRITIQUES
“By bringing together advances in the philosophy of mind with recent psychological theories of mental development, Radu Bogdan offers an original and promising explanation of human's most distinctive form of competence: the imagination.”
—David Olson, University Professor Emeritus, OISE/University of Toronto
“Mindvaults is a ground-shifting work of major consequence to the fields of developmental psychology and cognitive science. Radu Bogdan proposes an innovative developmental-evolutionary theory of human thinking based on a deep understanding and new conceptualization of contemporary research on cognitive development. Mindvaults should find its place on every developmental reading list.”
—Katherine Nelson, Distinguished Professor of Psychology Emerita, CUNY Graduate Center
“Mindvaults offers great intuitions and ideas—for example, it suggests that our specific human abilities thrive on adaptations to the cultural captivity of a prolonged childhood. It takes a brave stance against short-cut explanations of mental evolution and adheres to a healthy minimalism of data interpretation.”
—Josef Perner, Department of Psychology and Center for Neurocognitive Research, University of Salzburg