Artefacts & Material Culture

The third subproject, running from October 2008 – October 2011 will focus on the cognitive foundations of the design and use of artefacts and material culture.

Artefacts are perhaps the most obvious feature of culture, and it would be difficult to exaggerate their importance to our lives or our thought. Surprisingly, the cognitive basis of our creation, use, and reasoning about artefacts has only recently become the subject of serious theoretical and empirical work. The project will explore numerous ways in which work in a broad range of disciplines-including anthropology, archaeology, cognitive psychology, comparative psychology, developmental psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy — can be integrated, and how it can inform, and be informed by, cross-cultural studies of artefact cognition.

This subproject will examine a cluster of philosophically interesting questions about the cognitive foundations for artefacts and material culture. Questions here include: How does artefact cognition relate to theory of mind? Which aspects of artefact cognition are uniquely human? How is cultural knowledge concerning artefacts transmitted? Given that some artefacts are embedded in norms and social institutions — money, parking tickets, wedding rings — how does artefact cognition relate to the psychology of norms? To what extent are these various components of artefact cognition universal?

Final Project Conference: ARTEFACTS & MATERIAL CULTURE

On April 15 - 17, 2011 the conference for the final strand of the Culture and the Mind Project on Artefacts and Material Culture was held at the Humanities Research Institute, University of Sheffield. Click this link for more information.