The brain and the nervous system are our most cultural organs. Our nervous system is especially immature at birth, our brain disproportionately small in relation to its adult size and open to cultural sculpting at multiple levels. Recognizing this, the new field of neuroanthropology places the brain at the center of discussions about human nature and culture. Anthropology offers brain science more robust accounts of enculturation to explain observable difference in brain function; neuroscience offers anthropology evidence of neuroplasticity’s role in social and cultural dynamics.
Understanding speech in our native tongue seems natural and effortless; listening to speech in a nonnative language is a different experience. In this book, Anne Cutler argues that listening to speech is a process of native listening because so much of it is exquisitely tailored to the requirements of the native language. Her cross-linguistic study (drawing on experimental work in languages that range from English and Dutch to Chinese and Japanese) documents what is universal and what is language specific in the way we listen to spoken language.
In The Foundations of Cognitive Archaeology, Marc Abramiuk proposes a multidisciplinary basis for the study of the mind in the past, arguing that archaeology and the cognitive sciences have much to offer one another. Abramiuk draws on relevant topics from philosophy, biological anthropology, cognitive psychology, cognitive anthropology, and archaeology to establish theoretically founded and empirically substantiated principles of a discipline that integrates different approaches to mind-related archaeological research.
In Our Own Minds, Radu Bogdan takes a developmental perspective on consciousness—its functional design in particular—and proposes that children's functional capacity for consciousness is assembled during development out of a variety of ontogenetic adaptations that respond mostly to sociocultural challenges specific to distinct stages of childhood.
Human communication is grounded in fundamentally cooperative, even shared, intentions. In this original and provocative account of the evolutionary origins of human communication, Michael Tomasello connects the fundamentally cooperative structure of human communication (initially discovered by Paul Grice) to the especially cooperative structure of human (as opposed to other primate) social interaction.
Hemispheric asymmetry is one of the basic aspects of perception and cognitive processing. The different functions of the left and right hemispheres of the brain have been studied with renewed interest in recent years, as scholars explore applications to new areas, new measuring techniques, and new theoretical approaches. This volume provides a comprehensive view of the latest research in brain asymmetry, offering not only recent empirical and clinical findings but also a coherent theoretical approach to the subject.
Science tries to understand human action from two perspectives, the cognitive and the volitional. The volitional approach, in contrast to the more dominant "outside-in" studies of cognition, looks at actions from the inside out, examining how actions are formed and informed by internal conditions. In Disorders of Volition, scholars from a range of disciplines seek to advance our understanding of the processes supporting voluntary action by addressing conditions in which the will is impaired.
The nature of the interplay between language learning and the evolution of a language over generational time is subtle. We can observe the learning of language by children and marvel at the phenomenon of language acquisition; the evolution of a language, however, is not so directly experienced. Language learning by children is robust and reliable, but it cannot be perfect or languages would never change—and English, for example, would not have evolved from the language of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.
Research shows that between birth and early adulthood the brain requires sensory stimulation to develop physically. The nature of the stimulation shapes the connections among neurons that create the neuronal networks necessary for thought and behavior. By changing the cultural environment, each generation shapes the brains of the next.
How can you know when someone is bluffing? Paying attention? Genuinely interested? The answer, writes Sandy Pentland in Honest Signals, is that subtle patterns in how we interact with other people reveal our attitudes toward them. These unconscious social signals are not just a back channel or a complement to our conscious language; they form a separate communication network. Biologically based "honest signaling," evolved from ancient primate signaling mechanisms, offers an unmatched window into our intentions, goals, and values.