Scott Atran

Scott Atran is Research Director in Anthropology at France's National Center for Scientific Research and Visiting Professor of Psychology and Public Policy at the University of Michigan. He is the coeditor, with Douglas Medin, of Folkbiology (MIT Press, 1999).

  • The Native Mind and the Cultural Construction of Nature

    The Native Mind and the Cultural Construction of Nature

    Scott Atran and Douglas L. Medin

    An analysis of the cognitive consequences of diminished contact with nature examines the relationship between how people think about the natural world and how they act on it, and how these are affected by cultural differences.

    Surveys show that our growing concern over protecting the environment is accompanied by a diminishing sense of human contact with nature. Many people have little commonsense knowledge about nature—are unable, for example, to identify local plants and trees or describe how these plants and animals interact. Researchers report dwindling knowledge of nature even in smaller, nonindustrialized societies. In The Native Mind and the Cultural Construction of Nature, Scott Atran and Douglas Medin trace the cognitive consequences of this loss of knowledge. Drawing on nearly two decades of cross-cultural and developmental research, they examine the relationship between how people think about the natural world and how they act on it and how these are affected by cultural differences.

    These studies, which involve a series of targeted comparisons among cultural groups living in the same environment and engaged in the same activities, reveal critical universal aspects of mind as well as equally critical cultural differences. Atran and Medin find that, despite a base of universal processes, the cultural differences in understandings of nature are associated with significant differences in environmental decision making as well as intergroup conflict and stereotyping stemming from these differences. The book includes two intensive case studies, one focusing on agro-forestry among Maya Indians and Spanish speakers in Mexico and Guatemala and the other on resource conflict between Native-American and European-American fishermen in Wisconsin. The Native Mind and the Cultural Construction of Nature offers new perspectives on general theories of human categorization, reasoning, decision making, and cognitive development.

    • Hardcover $40.00
    • Paperback $30.00 £25.00
  • Folkbiology

    Folkbiology

    Douglas L. Medin and Scott Atran

    The term "folkbiology" refers to people's everyday understanding of the biological world—how they perceive, categorize, and reason about living kinds. The study of folkbiology not only sheds light on human nature, it may ultimately help us make the transition to a global economy without irreparably damaging the environment or destroying local cultures.

    This book takes an interdisciplinary approach, bringing together the work of researchers in anthropology, cognitive and developmental psychology, biology, and philosophy of science. The issues covered include: Are folk taxonomies a first-order approximation to classical scientific taxonomies, or are they driven more directly by utilitarian concerns? How are these category schemes linked to reasoning about natural kinds? Is there any nontrivial sense in which folk-taxonomic structures are universal? What impact does science have on folk taxonomy? Together, the chapters present the current foundations of folkbiology and indicate new directions in research.

    Contributors Scott Atran, Terry Kit-fong Au, Brent Berlin, K. David Bishop, John D. Coley, Jared Diamond, John Dupré, Roy Ellen, Susan A. Gelman, Michael T. Ghiselin, Grant Gutheil, Giyoo Hatano, Lawrence A. Hirschfeld, David L. Hull, Eugene Hunn, Kayoko Inagaki, Frank C. Keil, Daniel T. Levin, Elizabeth Lynch, Douglas L. Medin, Julia Beth Proffitt, Bethany A. Richman, Laura F. Romo, Sandra R. Waxman

    • Hardcover $112.50 £92.00
    • Paperback $45.00 £38.00

Contributor

  • The Moral Brain

    The Moral Brain

    A Multidisciplinary Perspective

    Jean Decety and Thalia Wheatley

    An overview of the latest interdisciplinary research on human morality, capturing moral sensibility as a sophisticated integration of cognitive, emotional, and motivational mechanisms.

    Over the past decade, an explosion of empirical research in a variety of fields has allowed us to understand human moral sensibility as a sophisticated integration of cognitive, emotional, and motivational mechanisms shaped through evolution, development, and culture. Evolutionary biologists have shown that moral cognition evolved to aid cooperation; developmental psychologists have demonstrated that the elements that underpin morality are in place much earlier than we thought; and social neuroscientists have begun to map brain circuits implicated in moral decision making. This volume offers an overview of current research on the moral brain, examining the topic from disciplinary perspectives that range from anthropology and neurophilosophy to justice and law.

    The contributors address the evolution of morality, considering precursors of human morality in other species as well as uniquely human adaptations. They examine motivations for morality, exploring the roles of passion, extreme sacrifice, and cooperation. They go on to consider the development of morality, from infancy to adolescence; findings on neurobiological mechanisms of moral cognition; psychopathic immorality; and the implications for justice and law of a more biological understanding of morality. These new findings may challenge our intuitions about society and justice, but they may also lead to more a humane and flexible legal system.

    Contributors Scott Atran, Abigail A. Baird, Nicolas Baumard, Sarah Brosnan, Jason M. Cowell, Molly J. Crockett, Ricardo de Oliveira-Souza, Andrew W. Delton, Mark R. Dadds, Jean Decety, Jeremy Ginges, Andrea L. Glenn, Joshua D. Greene, J. Kiley Hamlin, David J. Hawes, Jillian Jordan, Max M. Krasnow, Ayelet Lahat, Jorge Moll, Caroline Moul, Thomas Nadelhoffer, Alexander Peysakhovich, Laurent Prétôt, Jesse Prinz, David G. Rand, Rheanna J. Remmel, Emma Roellke, Regina A. Rini, Joshua Rottman, Mark Sheskin, Thalia Wheatley, Liane Young, Roland Zahn

    • Hardcover $40.00 £32.00
    • Paperback $25.00 £20.00
  • Grounding Social Sciences in Cognitive Sciences

    Grounding Social Sciences in Cognitive Sciences

    Ron Sun

    Exploration of a new integrative intellectual enterprise: the cognitive social sciences.

    Research in the cognitive sciences has advanced significantly in recent decades. Computational cognitive modeling has profoundly changed the ways in which we understand cognition. Empirical research has progressed as well, offering new insights into many psychological phenomena. This book investigates the possibility of exploiting the successes of the cognitive sciences to establish a better foundation for the social sciences, including the disciplines of sociology, anthropology, economics, and political science. The result may be a new, powerful, integrative intellectual enterprise: the cognitive social sciences.

    The book treats a range of topics selected to capture issues that arise across the social sciences, covering computational, empirical, and theoretical approaches. The chapters, by leading scholars in both the cognitive and the social sciences, explore the relationship between cognition and society, including such issues as methodologies of studying cultural differences; the psychological basis of politics (for instance, the role of emotion and the psychology of moral choices); cognitive dimensions of religion; cognitive approaches to economics; meta-theoretical questions on the possibility of the unification of social and cognitive sciences. Combining depth and breadth, the book encourages fruitful interdisciplinary interaction across many fields.

    • Hardcover $19.75 £15.99
  • An Invitation to Cognitive Science, Second Edition, Volume 3

    An Invitation to Cognitive Science, Second Edition, Volume 3

    Thinking

    Edward E. Smith and Daniel N. Osherson

    An Invitation to Cognitive Science provides a point of entry into the vast realm of cognitive science, offering selected examples of issues and theories from many of its subfields. All of the volumes in the second edition contain substantially revised and as well as entirely new chapters.

    Rather than surveying theories and data in the manner characteristic of many introductory textbooks in the field, An Invitation to Cognitive Science employs a unique case study approach, presenting a focused research topic in some depth and relying on suggested readings to convey the breadth of views and results. Each chapter tells a coherent scientific story, whether developing themes and ideas or describing a particular model and exploring its implications.

    The volumes are self contained and can be used individually in upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses ranging from introductory psychology, linguistics, cognitive science, and decision sciences, to social psychology, philosophy of mind, rationality, language, and vision science.

    • Hardcover $92.50 £75.00
    • Paperback $55.00 £45.00