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Science, Totems, and the Technological Species

We need nature for our physical and psychological well-being. Our actions reflect this when we turn to beloved pets for companionship, vacation in spots of natural splendor, or spend hours working in the garden. Yet we are also a technological species and have been since we fashioned tools out of stone. Thus one of this century's central challenges is to embrace our kinship with a more-than-human world—"our totemic self"—and integrate that kinship with our scientific culture and technological selves.

Since it was introduced to the English-speaking world in 1962, Lev Vygotsky's Thought and Language has become recognized as a classic foundational work of cognitive science. Its 1962 English translation must certainly be considered one of the most important and influential books ever published by the MIT Press. In this highly original exploration of human mental development, Vygotsky analyzes the relationship between words and consciousness, arguing that speech is social in its origins and that only as children develop does it become internalized verbal thought.

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.

There are few articles in science that remain relevant over a span of 100 years; Max Wertheimer's pioneering experimental studies on apparent motion and figural organization are notable exceptions. Wertheimer’s 1912 account of motion perception started a revolution and established the Gestalt school of psychology. It also paved the way for further investigations of apparent motion perception, including subsequent research by Oliver Braddick, Stuart Anstis, Vilaynur Ramachandran, and others.

Explanation, Discovery, and Conceptual Change

Many disciplines, including philosophy, history, and sociology, have attempted to make sense of how science works. In this book, Paul Thagard examines scientific development from the interdisciplinary perspective of cognitive science. Cognitive science combines insights from researchers in many fields: philosophers analyze historical cases, psychologists carry out behavioral experiments, neuroscientists perform brain scans, and computer modelers write programs that simulate thought processes.

The Social Making of Agency and Intentionality

In Open Minds, Wolfgang Prinz offers the novel claim that agency and intentionality are first perceived and understood in others, and that it is only through practices and discourses of social mirroring that individuals come to apply these features to themselves and to shape their architectures for volition and cognition accordingly.

Although our physical abilities clearly decline as we age, cognitive decline in healthy old age is neither universal nor inevitable. In Nurturing the Older Brain, Pamela Greenwood and Raja Parasuraman show that scientific research does not support the popular notion of the inexorable and progressive effects of cognitive aging in all older adults.

New Developments in Psychology, Philosophy of Mind, and Social Neuroscience
Edited by Axel Seemann

Academic interest in the phenomenon of joint attention—the capacity to attend to an object together with another creature—has increased rapidly over the past two decades. Yet it isn’t easy to spell out in detail what joint attention is, how it ought to be characterized, and what exactly its significance consists in. The writers for this volume address these and related questions by drawing on a variety of disciplines, including developmental and comparative psychology, philosophy of mind, and social neuroscience.

Why a System That Shouldn't Work at All Works So Well

Voters often make irrational decisions based on inaccurate and irrelevant information. Politicians are often inept, corrupt, or out of touch with the will of the people. Elections can be determined by the design of the ballot and the gerrymandered borders of a district. And yet, despite voters who choose candidates according to the boxer–brief dichotomy and politicians who struggle to put together a coherent sentence, democracy works exceptionally well: citizens of democracies are healthier, happier, and freer than citizens of other countries.

In Psychiatry in the Scientific Image, Dominic Murphy looks at psychiatry from the viewpoint of analytic philosophy of science, considering three issues: how we should conceive of, classify, and explain mental illness. If someone is said to have a mental illness, what about it is mental? What makes it an illness? How might we explain and classify it? A system of psychiatric classification settles these questions by distinguishing the mental illnesses and showing how they stand in relation to one another.

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