The Making of Human Concepts

Overview


Human adults appear different from other animals in their ability to form abstract mental representations that go beyond perceptual similarity. In short, they can conceptualize the world. This apparent uniqueness leads to an immediate puzzle: WHEN and HOW does this abstract system come into being? To answer this question we need to explore the origins of adult concepts, both developmentally and phylogenetically; When does the developing child acquire the ability to use abstract concepts?; does the transition ...
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Overview


Human adults appear different from other animals in their ability to form abstract mental representations that go beyond perceptual similarity. In short, they can conceptualize the world. This apparent uniqueness leads to an immediate puzzle: WHEN and HOW does this abstract system come into being? To answer this question we need to explore the origins of adult concepts, both developmentally and phylogenetically; When does the developing child acquire the ability to use abstract concepts?; does the transition occur around 2 years, with the onset of symbolic representation and language? Or, is it independent of the emergence of language?; when in evolutionary history did an abstract representational system emerge?; is there something unique about the human brain? How would a computational system operating on the basis of perceptual associations develop into a system operating on the basis of abstract relations?; is this ability present in other species, but masked by their inability to verbalise abstractions? Perhaps the very notion of concepts is empty and should be done away with altogether.

This book tackles the age-old puzzle of what might be unique about human concepts. Intuitively, we have a sense that our thoughts are somehow different from those of animals and young children such as infants. Yet, if true, this raises the question of where and how this uniqueness arises. What are the factors that have played out during the life course of the individual and over the evolution of humans that have contributed to the emergence of this apparently unique ability? This volume brings together a collection of world specialists who have grappled with these questions from different perspectives to try to resolve the issue. It includes contributions from leading psychologists, neuroscientists, child and infant specialists, and animal cognition specialists. Taken together, this story leads to the idea that there is no unique ingredient in the emergence of human concepts, but rather a powerful and potentially unique mix of biological abilities and personal and social history that has led to where the human mind now stands.

A 'must-read' for students and researchers in the cognitive sciences.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This edited volume is an exceptional delight to read. It is a thoughtful and compelling collection of chapters from today's top scientists examining human categorization from a wide variety of theoretical and comparative perspectives. Individuals from any number of areas should find this diverse material extremely interesting and important in advancing their understanding of this fundamental and important aspect of cognition. Beyond selecting an outstanding group of authors, the editors have thoughtfully provided the scientific foundations for the chapters and, more importantly, included an integrative summary that brings the different perspectives included in this volume into a common interdisciplinary focus. In sum, this volume is an important advance and is highly recommended for all interested in the fundamental nature of human and non-human thought."--Professor Robert Cook, Avian Visual Cognition Lab, Department of Psychology, Tufts University

"To a large extent cognitive, developmental, and comparative psychologists have pursued the study of concepts independently, with little attempt at integration between these disciplines. In this important edited collection, contributions from the leading experts detail the phylogenetic and ontogenetic origins of human adult concepts and push towards a coherent overall perspective. The volume will be essential reading for students, academics, and researchers seeking a unitary perspective on the origin of human adult concepts." --Professor Mark H. Johnson, Director, Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development,University of London

"This book focuses on a provocative question: what, if anything, is unique about human concepts? The authors-leaders in cognitive, developmental, and comparative psychology- provide an important push towards integration of disparate perspectives. Although it is difficult enough to study any one of these areas, the combination of the different disciplines provides a different outlook on the possible influences of relations, language, culture, and evolution. This is a stimulating, accessible, edited volume that will help students and researchers to better understand the question and the possible answers."-- Professor Brian H. Ross, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois

"...this is a book well worth buying. The editors' introductory remarks, pointing out the main ideas of each chapter and its place in the entire discussion, give the book far greater coherence than the average edited volume. This should increase its instructional utility. Most of the individual chapters are of excellent quality. " --PsycCRITIQUES

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199549221
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/10/2010
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Denis Mareschal obtained his first degree from King's College Cambridge in Natural Science with a specialisation in physics and theoretical physics. He then went on to obtain a Masters in psychology from McGill University with a thesis on the computational modelling of cognitive development. Finally, he obtained a DPhil in Psychology from the University of Oxford for a thesis combining neural network modelling and the experimental testing of infant-object interactions. He took up an initial lecturing position at the University of Exeter (UK) in 1995 and moved to Birkbeck College University of London in 1998 where he has been ever since. He was awarded the Marr Prize in 1995 by the Cognitive Science Society (USA), the Young Investigator Award in 2000 by the International Society on Infant Studies (USA), and the Margaret Donaldson Prize in 2006 by the Developmental Section of the British Psychological Society. He was made professor in 2006.

Paul C. Quinn earned an ScB degree in Psychology with Honors and graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Brown University in 1981. He also received a PhD in Psychology from Brown in 1986. Quinn taught previously at the University of Iowa (1986-88) and at Washington & Jefferson College (1988-2003) before moving to the University of Delaware as Professor of Psychology in 2003. Quinn has been named a Fellow by the American Psychological Association (2004) and Association for Psychological Science (2007). He is interested in understanding the developmental emergence of synthetic cognitive abilities with a particular focus on the mechanisms by which human infants group (1) elements to form perceptual wholes, (2) objects into category representations, and (3) relations among objects into concepts. Quinn's research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, and has resulted in over 120 journal and book chapter publications.

Stephen E. G. Lea holds MA and PhD degrees from the University of Cambridge, and has worked at the University of Exeter since 1976, being promoted to full professor in 1990. His PhD work was on decision-making in rats, and he was an early contributor to the field of animal cognition, which was then just beginning to emerge. Within that field, he is well known for his work on concept learning in birds, but he has also published on a range of topics in behavioural ecology, on subjects ranging from laboratory studies of hoarding in hamsters to field studies of diving in cormorants. In addition he was one of the founders of the modern movement in economic psychology, and is well known for his work on the psychology of money and debt. He has long experience of voluntary work with children and young people, and is a local (lay) preacher for the Methodist Church

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Table of Contents

Part One
1: Denis Mareschal, Paul Quinn: Where do concepts come from?
2: Gregory Murphy: What are categories and concepts
3: James Close, Ulrike Hahn, Carl Hodgets and Emmanuel M. Pothos: Rules and similarity in adult concept learning
4: Brad Love and Marc Tomlinson: Mechanistic Models of Associative and Rule-based Category Learning
5: F. Gregory Ashby adn Matthew J. Crossley: The Neurobiology of Categorization
6: Sandra Waxman and Susan Gelman: Different kinds of concepts and different kinds of words: What words do for human cognition
7: Norbert Ross and Michael Tidwell: Concepts and culture
Part Two
8: Olga Lazareva, Edward Wasserman: Category learning and concept learning in birds
9: Stephen E.G. Lea: Concept learning in nonprimate mammals: In search of evidence
10: Michele Fabre-Thorpe: Concepts in Monkeys
11: Tetsuro Matsuzawa: Cognitive development in chimpanzees: A trade-off between memory and abstraction? 12: Barbara Younger: Categorization and concept formation in human infants
13: Susan Carey: The making of an abstract concept: Natural number
14: James Hampton: Concepts in Human Adults
Part Three
15: Frank Keil and George E. Newman: Darwin and Development: Why ontogeny does not recapitualte phylogeny for human concepts
16: Linda Smith: More than concepts: How multiple integrations make human intelligence
17: Michael Corballis and Thomas Suddendorf: The Evolution of concepts: A timely look
Part Four
18: Denis Mareschal, Paul C. Quinn and Stephen E.G. Lea: The Making of Human Concepts: A Final Look
Part One
1. Where do concepts come from?, Denis Mareschal, Paul Quinn, Stephen Lea
2. What are categories and concepts, Gregory Murphy
3. Rules and similarity in adult concept learning, James Close, Ulrike Hahn, Carl Hodgets, and Emmanuel M. Pothos
4. Mechanistic Models of Associative and Rule-based Category Learning, Brad Love and Marc Tomlinson
5. The Neurobiology of Categorization, F. Gregory Ashby and Matthew J. Crossley
6. Different kinds of concepts and different kinds of words: What words do for human cognition, Sandra Waxman and Susan Gelman
7. Concepts and culture, Norbert Ross and Mike Tidwell
Part Two
8. Category learning and concept learning in birds, Olga Lazareva, Edward Wasserman
9. Concept learning in nonprimate mammals: In search of evidence, Stephen Lea
10. Concepts in Monkeys, Michele Fabre-Thorpe
11. Cognitive development in chimpanzees: A trade-off between memory and abstraction?, Tetsuro Matsuzawa
12. Categorization and concept formation in human infants, Barbara Younger
13. The making of an abstract concept: Natural number, Susan Carey
14. Concepts in Human Adults, James Hampton
Part Three
15. Darwin and Development: Why ontogeny does not recapitualte phylogeny for human concepts, Frank Keil and George E. Newman
16. More than concepts: How multiple integrations make human intelligence, Linda Smith
17. The Evolution of concepts: A timely look, Michael Corballis and Thomas Suddendorf
Part Four
18. The Making of Human Concepts: A Final Look, Denis Mareschal, Paul C. Quinn and Stephen E.G. Lea

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