the Journal of Cognition and Culture: a new issue

The new issue (vol 12, 1-2) of the Journal of Cognition and Culture is out. For the table of content and abstracts:






"Is the Use of Averaging in Advice Taking Modulated by Culture?" by Mercier, Hugo; Yama, Hiroshi; Kawasaki, Yayoi; Adachi, Kuniko; Van der Henst, Jean-Baptiste

Abstract : Many recent experiments have explored the way people take advice into account. It has been observed that in so doing participants often rely on one of the two following strategies: averaging between the different opinions or choosing one of the opinions, as opposed to using more complex weighting strategies. While several factors that affect strategy choice have been investigated, no attention has been paid to potential cultural variations. Among the many relevant cross-cultural differences, results have show that Easterners tend to favor compromise more than Westerners, a difference that could translate into a greater preference for averaging in Eastern population. In Experiment 1, we confronted Japanese and French participants to two pieces of advice and asked them to form an aggregate answer. In Experiment 2, participants had to aggregate their own opinion and a piece of advice. In neither of the experiments were the Japanese more likely to use averaging than the French. Explanations for this robust absence of difference are suggested. The only difference that emerged was that the Japanese were more likely to choose the advice and less likely to choose their own answer than the French. Different interpretations of this result are discussed, including the possibility that it is an artefact of a theoretically irrelevant difference between the populations under study.


"Cultural Differences in Children's Ecological Reasoning and Psychological Closeness to Nature: Evidence from Menominee and European American Children" by Unsworth, Sara J.; Levin, Wallis; Bang, Megan; Washinawatok, Karen; Waxman, Sandra R.; Medin, Douglas L.

Abstract: In spite of evidence for cultural variation in adult concepts of the biological world (i.e., folkbiological thought), research regarding the influence of culture on children's concepts is mixed, and cultural influences on many aspects of early folkbiological thought remain underexplored. Previous research has shown that there are cultural differences in ecological reasoning and psychological closeness to nature between Menominee Native American and rural European American adults (e.g., Medin et al., 2006; Bang et al., 2007). In the present research we examined whether these cultural concepts are available at 5-7 years of age. We conducted structured interviews in which each child viewed several pairs of pictures of plants and non-human animals and were asked how or why the species (e.g., raspberries and strawberries) might go together. We found that Menominee children were more likely than European American children to mention ecological relations and psychological closeness to nature, and that they were also more likely to mimic the non-human species. There were no differences between the two communities in the number of children's responses based on taxonomic and morphological relations. Implications for the design of science curricula are discussed.


"A Mammal That Is Not an Animal? Naming and the Animal Concept in English and Indonesian Speakers" by Anggoro, Florencia K.

Abstract: The present study examined whether English and Indonesian naming practices are predictive of children's and adults' conceptions of animal, specifically, the hierarchical relationships between human, mammal and animal. At age 6, English speakers were almost two times more likely than Indonesian speakers to agree that mammals are animals. At age 9, English speakers were three times more likely than Indonesian speakers to agree that humans are mammals. As adults, Indonesian (but not English) speakers continued to deny that humans are animals. That is, the Indonesian naming practice that leads speakers to deny that humans are animals appears related to a delay in Indonesian-speaking children's acceptance that mammals are animals and humans are mammals. We conclude that this delay may stem from a conflict between categorical knowledge and well-established naming practices.


"The Asymmetry of Praise and Blame: Distinguishing between Moral Evaluation Effects and Scenario Effects" by Haupt, Andreas; Uske, Tobias

Abstract: Observers are said to blame actors for causing bad side-effects more than they reward them for causing good ones (Knobe, 2003). We show that moral appraisals play a less crucial role in the attribution of intentionality and judgments than previously suggested. Instead, the negativity or positivity of a consequence constitute a scenario effect, accounting for biased intentionality attributions and judgments. Moreover, moral appraisals are reinforced by actors signaling norm adherence, e.g., caring about information on action consequences. This affects the propensity to attribute intentionality. Our results suggest that the praise-blame bias persists even if observers do not make moral judgements


"What Goes Around Comes Around: The Evolutionary Roots of the Belief in Immanent Justice" by Baumard, Nicolas; Chevallier, Coralie

Abstract: The belief in immanent justice is the expectation that the universe is designed to ensure that evil is punished and virtue rewarded. What makes this belief so `natural'? Here, we suggest that this intuition of immanent justice derives from our evolved sense of fairness. In cases where a misdeed is followed by a misfortune, our sense of fairness construes the misfortune as a way to compensate for the misdeed. To test this hypothesis, we designed a set of studies in which we show that people who do not believe in immanent justice are nonetheless implicitly influenced by intuitions of immanent justice. Strikingly, this effect disappears when the misfortune is disproportionate compared to the misdeed: In this case, justice is not restored and participants lose the intuition of immanent justice. Following recent theories of religion, we suggest that this intuition contributes to the cultural success of beliefs in immanent justice.


"Exploring the Folk Understanding of Belief: Identifying Key Dimensions Endorsed in the General Population" by Pechey, Rachel; Halligan, Peter W

Abstract: Folk psychological accounts consider beliefs to be shared assumptions or internally represented theories that guide or inform the explanations and predictions about what people say and do. There are numerous studies that explore people's beliefs on health, politics, religion, paranormal phenomena and delusional themes, but this paper describes the first study to explicitly evaluate if the general population share a relatively consistent definition of the term. A large stratified British sample (N=1000) was asked to rate a set of 14 qualitative descriptors to characterise key operational features of `belief '. Individual features showed endorsement rates of 79-90% and a principal components analysis revealed that the majority of features loaded onto a single component. Despite differences in endorsement levels for individual features, the findings suggest that `belief ' comprises a common set of distinct properties shared by most of the general population.


"Immortality of the Soul as an Intuitive Idea: Towards a Psychological Explanation of the Origins of Afterlife Beliefs" by Authors: Pereira, Vera; Faísca, Luís; de Sá-Saraiva, Rodrigo

Abstract: This study tried to investigate if intuitive ideas about the continuation of the Self after death determine the way people represent the state of being dead, and, in this way, investigate possible psychological origins of afterlife beliefs, which constitute a recurrent cultural phenomenon. A semi-structured interview and a self-report questionnaire were used to obtain information on the experience of imagining oneself as dead and the representation of the dead-I of young adults. The results suggest that (1) there is a tendency to imagine the state of being dead as a continuation of the I, even in the absence of explicit afterlife beliefs; (2) perceptual, emotional, epistemic and desire experiences are associated to the dead-I; (3) the representation of the dead-I seems to be determined by an interaction between cognitive processes related to self-awareness and theory of mind, and the cultural afterlife beliefs explicitly learned. A previous alternative hypothesis, suggesting that simulation constraints were responsible for the emergence of non-reflective afterlife concepts (Bering, 2002, 2006) is not completely supported by our results. The data presented here suggest that immortality of the soul might be an intuitive religious concept, connected to the experience of the Self and to the implicit theorization that the experienced Self is independent from the body. Future studies should focus on the collection of cross-cultural and developmental data.


"Agency Detection in God Concepts: Essential, Situational, and Individual Factors" by Grysman, Azriel; Hudson, Judith A.

Abstract: We investigate how current models of the conceptual representation of God as highly agentive have consequences for how the God concept is processed in memory for stories when God is not presented as specifically agentive. Participants read stories describing a person experiencing a potentially harmful situation, avoiding the harm, and then thanking either God or luck. Results indicate significant differences between recall of the God and luck stories: God was recalled more often, recalled with intentional language, and God stories were recalled with more intrusions than luck stories. However, results indicate no differences between God and luck story recall on a subsequent recognition task. Participants' religious identity correlated with both recall and recognition scores. Findings are taken as evidence of a God concept that is represented as highly agentive, and differences between the recognition and recall task reflect differences between intuitive and explicit theology. Results further our knowledge about the way conceptual representation of the supernatural can influence text processing, and suggest ways in which the perception of agency can be influenced.


"`Putting Ourselves in the Other Fellow' s Shoes' : The Role of `Theory of Mind' in Solving Coordination Problems" Curry, Oliver; Chesters, Matthew Jones

Abstract: How do people solve coordination problems? One possibility is that they use ` Theory of Mind' to generate expectations about others' behaviour. To test this, we investigate whether the ability to solve interpersonal coordination problems is associated with individual differences in ` Theory of Mind' , as measured by a questionnaire addressing autistic-spectrum personality traits. The results suggest that successful coordination is associated with Theory-of-Mind function, but not with the non-social components of autistic personality (e.g., pattern detection, imagination). We discuss the implications of this finding for future research, and the assessment of autistic-spectrum presentations in adult populations.


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