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The Innate Mind Volume 2: Culture and Cognition$
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Peter Carruthers, Stephen Laurence, and Stephen Stich

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195310139

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195310139.001.0001

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Cognitive Load and Human Decision, or, Three Ways of Rolling the Rock Uphil l

Cognitive Load and Human Decision, or, Three Ways of Rolling the Rock Uphil l

Chapter:
(p.218) 14 Cognitive Load and Human Decision, or, Three Ways of Rolling the Rock Uphill
Source:
The Innate Mind
Author(s):

Kim Sterelny (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195310139.003.0014

This chapter argues that much human decision-making has a high cognitive load, that is, agents make satisfying decisions only by accessing and effectively using information that is hard to get, interpret, or both. When the type of information needed for good decision-making is predictable over evolutionarily significant time frames, there is likely to be a modular explanation of its intelligent use. When the environment is stable in the right way, natural selection can pre-equip agents to register the relevant information and use it efficiently. But human environments are variable, and as a consequence there are many high-cognitive-load problems that we face whose informational requirements are not stable over evolutionary time. This chapter argues that our capacity to respond successfully to these novel problems depends on two other evolved strategies. The first is informational niche construction. Informational engineering is an ancient feature of human lifeways, and it is argued that human minds are adapted to this social transmission of information. The second strategy is less sensitive to the pace of change. Most obviously, we store information in the environment. This too is an ancient feature of human lifeways. Human minds are adapted not just to relatively invariant features of human environments, but also to changeable ones. Adaptive action in the face of novel challenges depends on some combination of informational niche construction and epistemic technology.

Keywords:   culture, evolution, decision-making, modules, heuristics, evolutionary psychology, informational niche construction, epistemic technology

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