AN251      Half Unit
Cognition and Anthropology: Learning and Thinking in Relation to Social Institutions

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Charles Stafford OLD6.02


This course is available on the BA in Anthropology and Law, BA in Social Anthropology and BSc in Social Anthropology. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.


Unless granted an exemption by the course teacher, students taking this course should have completed an introductory course in anthropology.

Course content

This course focuses on human learning, thinking and cognitive development, specifically in relation to cultural-historical artefacts (such as writing) and social institutions (such as schools). The topics covered include: (1) cultural models and distributed cognition; (2) attachment behaviours and rites of passage; (3) emotions cross-culturally; (4) incest aversion and incest taboos; (5) morality and ethics cross-culturally; (6) numerical cognition and mathematics; (7) human logic and reason cross-culturally; (8) language and literacy; (9) training, schooling and expertise; (10) exchange, reciprocity and economic psychology.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT.

This course has a reading week in Week 6 of LT.

Formative coursework

Students are expected to prepare discussion material for presentation in classes. Students registered for Anthropology degrees will prepare tutorial essays on the subject matter of the course and receive feedback from their academic advisors. Students who are not registered for Anthropology degrees will be given the option of submitting essays to the course teacher and receiving feedback on them.

Indicative reading

Ed Hutchins, Cognition in the wild; Michael Cole, Cultural psychology; A. Wolf ; P. Durham (eds), Inbreeding, incest and the incest taboo; Jack Goody, The domestication of the savage mind; D. Holland; M. Eisenhart, Educated in romance; Unni Wikan, Turbulent hearts; M. Lambek (ed.), Ordinary ethics; Stanislas Dehaene, The number sense.


Exam (70%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (30%, 2500 words) in the LT.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2016/17: Unavailable

Average class size 2016/17: Unavailable

Capped 2016/17: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information