4 years ago

Autocatalytic networks in cognition and the origin of culture

It has been proposed that cultural evolution was made possible by a cognitive transition brought about by onset of the capacity for self-triggered recall and rehearsal. Here we develop a novel idea that models of collectively autocatalytic networks, developed for understanding the origin and organization of life, may also help explain the origin of the kind of cognitive structure that makes cultural evolution possible. In this setting, mental representations (for example, memories, concepts, ideas) play the role of ‘molecules’, and ‘reactions’ involve the evoking of one representation by another through remindings and associations. In the ‘episodic mind’, representations are so coarse-grained (encode too few properties) that such reactions must be ‘catalyzed’ by external stimuli. As cranial capacity increased, representations became more fine-grained (encoded more features), which facilitated recursive catalysis and culminated in free-association and streams of thought. At this point, the mind could combine representations and adapt them to specific needs and situations, and thereby contribute to cultural evolution. In this paper, we propose and study a simple and explicit cognitive model that gives rise naturally to autocatalytic networks, and thereby provides a possible mechanism for the transition from a pre-cultural episodic mind to a mimetic mind.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0022519317303533

You might also like
Discover & Discuss Important Research

Keeping up-to-date with research can feel impossible, with papers being published faster than you'll ever be able to read them. That's where Researcher comes in: we're simplifying discovery and making important discussions happen. With over 19,000 sources, including peer-reviewed journals, preprints, blogs, universities, podcasts and Live events across 10 research areas, you'll never miss what's important to you. It's like social media, but better. Oh, and we should mention - it's free.

  • Download from Google Play
  • Download from App Store
  • Download from AppInChina

Researcher displays publicly available abstracts and doesn’t host any full article content. If the content is open access, we will direct clicks from the abstracts to the publisher website and display the PDF copy on our platform. Clicks to view the full text will be directed to the publisher website, where only users with subscriptions or access through their institution are able to view the full article.