I am interested in the interdependence of mind and culture, aiming to develop an approach which can do justice to evolutionary influences without denying the nuances of cultural variations. This is an interdisciplinary and highly collaborative enterprise which integrates insights of areas including cognitive science, philosophy, communication, anthropology and social psychology, under the umbrella of evolutionary theory.
This is an interdisciplinary and highly collaborative enterprise which integrates insights of areas including cognitive science, philosophy, communication, anthropology and social psychology, under the umbrella of evolutionary theory.
My first degree was in Social Psychology from LSE, and I moved to the University of Edinburgh to study Cognitive Science at Masters' and PhD level; this enabled a whole range of interdisciplinary interests to blossom. My PhD concerned how people represent knowledge (i.e., concepts), and how that representation connects to knowledge and use of language. The core idea was that concepts hold quite limited content which, with appropriate pragmatic processing mechanisms, delivers highly flexible, context-dependent representations of meaning. This core idea of the context-dependence of thinking has stayed with me, played out in different ways. Recent developments reflect a growing interest in evolutionary explanations of mind and social relations. Connecting this to context-dependence seems most likely to involve a situated and embodied approach to cognition and culture.
My research interests seek to understand cognition via its origins in evolution and social-cultural construction. Fundamental cognitive processes of concepts and categorisation are connected to action and agency based on social and environmental affordances, which are evolved but culturally modulated. Communication is inherently dialogical because of its connections to evolved, joint agency and action. These ideas have a range of implications – e.g. for:
Self-construal and agency, which has implications for cooperation (e.g. moral behaviour)
Role of affordances in designing behaviour change interventions in public policy (e.g. health)
Content and cultural transmission in public and mediated communication (e.g. media representation of neuroscience)
Content and cultural transmission in commonsense (e.g. conspiracy theory as ‘quasi-religious’)