Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I get a kick out of calling myself a robot in various social situations. Some think I’m joking. Others might be offended, and, as for myself, I don’t know how serious I am, but the evidence continues to mount up that this wonderful reasoning process we humans pride ourselves on is nothing more than an adaptation, an instinct for thinking. Well, if thought is instinctive, how much credit can we take for employing it consciously? If we are not really consciously applying logic and reason, then what does it mean to think? The following is an brief bit of a paper by two evolutionary psychologists which seems to indicate that thinking is instinctive rather than consciously employed. If you can, you should try to get ahold of the entire paper, if not the book in which it appears.

“Taken together, the data showing design specificity, precocious development, cross-cultural universality, and neural dissociability implicate the existence of an evolved, species-typical neurocomputational specialization.

“In short, the neurocognitive system that causes reasoning about social exchange shows evidence of being what Pinker (1994) has called a cognitive instinct: It is complexly organized for solving a well-defined adaptive problem our ancestors faced in the past, it reliably develops in all normal humans, it develops without any conscious effort and in the absence of explicit instruction, it is applied without any conscious awareness of its underlying logic, and it is functionally and neurally distinct from more general abilities to process information or behave intelligently.” Leda Cosmides and John Tooby in “Neurocognitive Adaptations Designed for Social Exchange,” Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology (p. 585)

No comments: