Publications of Heintz, Christophe

Commitment and communication: Are we committed to what we mean, or what we say?

Are communicators perceived as committed to what they actually say (what is explicit), or to what they mean (including what is implicit)? Some research claims that explicit communication leads to a higher attribution of commitment and more accountability than implicit communication. Here we present theoretical arguments and experimental data to the contrary. We present three studies exploring whether the saying–meaning distinction affects commitment attribution in promises, and, crucially, whether commitment attribution is further modulated by the degree to which the hearer will actually rely on the promise. Our results support the conclusion that people perceive communicators to be committed to ‘what is meant’, and not simply to ‘what is said’. Our findings add to the experimental literature showing that the saying–meaning distinction is not as pivotal to social relations as often assumed, and that its role in commitment attribution might be overestimated. The attribution of commitment is strongly dependent on the (mutually known) relevance of ‘what is meant’.

Methods for studying cultural attraction

Cultural attraction theory (CAT) describes a general evolutionary process, cultural attraction, by which the spread and stability of cultural items (beliefs, practices, artifacts, etc.) result not just from differential reproduction, but also from transformations that systematically favor the reconstruction of cultural items of specific types. In this way, CAT aims to provide a general framework for the study of cultural evolution. In a thoughtful critical analysis, Buskell questions the ability of CAT to provide methodological guidance for research in cultural evolution. Can CAT be used to develop the sort of mid‐range theories and models that often drive empirical work? Here we argue that CAT can indeed be used in this way, and we outline the methodological practices that students of cultural attraction have used and are currently developing.

Disentangling great apes’ decoy-effect bias in a food choice task

The decoy effect is a violation of rationality that occurs when the relative preference between two target options changes with the addition of a third option, called the decoy, that is no better than the target options but worse than one of the options on one attribute. The presence of the decoy increases the chance that the option that dominates it on this attribute is chosen over the other target option. The current study tested decoy effects with great apes’ food preferences. We presented apes with two target items, grape and banana, and a third item, the decoy, which was either a smaller grape or a smaller piece of banana. We found that apes’ decisions were not influenced by the presence of a decoy. In general, apes did not increase their choices in favor of the target item that dominated the decoy. This would indicate that great apes are not vulnerable to the cognitive biases that cause decoy effects in humans, at least in cases where choice is between two different types of food. We discuss what can be concluded about the psychological causes of human irrational choices and their evolutionary origin.

Four misunderstandings about cultural attraction

Cultural attraction theory (CAT) is a research agenda the purpose of which is to develop causalexplanations of cultural phenomena. CAT is also an evolutionary approach to culture, in thesense that it treats culture as a population of items of different types, with the frequency oftokens of those types changing over time. Now more than 20 years old, CAT has made manypositive contributions, theoretical and empirical, to the naturalization of the social sciences. Inconsequence of this growing impact, CAT has, in recent years, been the subject of critical dis-cussion. Here, we review and respond to these critiques. In so doing, we also provide a clearand concise introduction to CAT. We give clear characterizations of CAT's key theoreticalnotions, and we outline how these notions are derived from consideration of the natural charac-ter of cultural phenomena (Box 1). This naturalistic quality distinguishes CAT from other evolu-tionary approaches to culture.

The Co-evolution of Honesty and Strategic Vigilance

We hypothesize that when honesty is not motivated by selfish goals, it reveals social preferences that have evolved for convincing strategically vigilant partners that one is a person worth cooperating with. In particular, we explain how the patterns of dishonest behavior observed in recent experiments can be motivated by preferences for social and self-esteem. These preferences have evolved because they are adaptive in an environment where it is advantageous to be selected as a partner by others and where these others are strategically vigilant: they efficiently evaluate the expected benefit of cooperating with specific partners and attend to their intentions. We specify the adaptive value of strategic vigilance and preferences for social and self-esteem. We argue that evolved preferences for social and self-esteem are satisfied by applying mechanisms of strategic vigilance to one's own behavior. We further argue that such cognitive processes obviate the need for the evolution of preferences for fairness and social norm compliance.

Heintz C. {Scaffolding on Core Cognition}. In: Caporael L, Wimsatt WC, Griesemer J, editors. Developing Scaffolds in Evolution, Culture, and Cognition. MIT Press; 2013. p. 209-28.

{Scaffolding on Core Cognition}

Cognitive flexibility can be achieved via a scaffolding process that harness the inferential power of core cognitive abilities.

{Current Darwinism in Social Science}

Darwinian theories concerned with human behaviour come in many forms. They can describe both the biological evolution of human cognition and the evolution of cultural traits in human communities. We briefly review these two types of Darwinian theories, including socio-biology, evolutionary psychology, memetics and dual inheritance theory, and show how insights from both types can be combined in a single framework: cultural epidemiology. We argue, however, that this is profitable only if selectionists models of cultural evolution are replaced by an attractor model.

{Scientists' Argumentative Reasoning}

Reasoning, defined as the production and evaluation of reasons, is a central process in science. The dominant view of reasoning, both in the psychology of reasoning and in the psychology of science, is of a mechanism with an asocial function: bettering the beliefs of the lone reasoner. Many observations, however, are difficult to reconcile with this view of reasoning; in particular, reasoning systematically searches for reasons that support the reasoner's initial beliefs, and it only evaluates these reasons cursorily. By contrast, reasoners are well able to evaluate others' reasons: accepting strong arguments and rejecting weak ones. The argumentative theory of reasoning accounts for these traits of reasoning by postulating that the evolved function of reasoning is to argue: to find arguments to convince others and to change one's mind when confronted with good arguments. Scientific reasoning, however, is often described as being at odds with such an argumentative mechanisms: scientists are supposed to reason objectively on their own, and to be pigheaded when their theories are challenged, even by good arguments. In this article, we review evidence showing that scientists, when reasoning, are subject to the same biases as are lay people while being able to change their mind when confronted with good arguments. We conclude that the argumentative theory of reasoning explains well key features of scientists' reasoning and that differences in the way scientists and laypeople reason result from the institutional framework of science.

{What can't be inferred from cross-cultural experimental games}

People from different cultures will interpret the experimental game they play differently; they will form different beliefs about what their partners will play and expect. I argue that the variations observed in experimental games ran across cultures might very much result from framing effects–-cultural framing effects–-rather than variations in pro-social preferences.

{The place of evolved cognition in scientific thinking}

There are three ways in which scientific cognition can me more ‚``natural" than McCauley suggests, in his book `Why Religion is Natural and Science is Not': (1) reasoning, which is at the heart of scientific cognition, is a very `natural' activity when it is conducted in a dialogic context; (2) even when reasoning is used in a slower, more effortful manner, it can be recruited in ‚``natural" ways; (3) unintuitive scientific beliefs are built on a scaffold of more intuitive beliefs and core knowledge.

{Les fondements psychiques et sociaux de la cognition distribuée}

Après avoir présenté et expliqué la notion de cognition distribuée, je situerai l'analyse qu'elle permet au sein des sciences cognitives et de la sociologie. Mes buts sont de montrer en quoi la théorie de la cognition distribuée contribue aux théories de la psychologie et de la sociologie, et réciproquement comment les théories de la sociologie et de la psychologie peuvent être recrutées pour expliquer l'existence de systèmes de cognition distribuée. La troisième section de ce chapitre est centrée sur les relations entre psychologie et théorie de la cognition distribuée. Elle montre que la sociologie de la cognition distribuée béné à être une sociologie cognitive de la cognition distribuée. La quatrième partie continue cet argument, mais en soulignant les phénomènes typiquement sociologique qui interviennent dans la constitution et l'évolution des systèmes de cognition distribuèe

{The Specificity of Human Communication Eludes Semiotic Theories}

Naturalistic accounts of culture, based on evolutionary psychology and theories of cultural evolution, can deal with the meaning of public symbols. There have been, indeed, several interesting proposals to naturalize the study of signs and their meaning. Kockelman' paper–-Biosemiosis, technocognition and sociogenesis–-provides such a proposal. It draws on two theoretical traditions: the semiotic study of natural signs (Peirce 1868) and the selectionist account of signals proposed by Ruth Millikan (1984). We feel the pull of both approaches, but we fundamentally disagree with the way they account for human communication. We argue that Gricean theories of communication provide a better account of interpretation and communication.

{Presuming placeholders are relevant enables conceptual change}

Placeholders enable conceptual change only if presumed to be relevant (e.g., lead to the formation of true beliefs) even though their meaning is not yet fully understood and their cognitive function not yet specified. Humans are predisposed to make such presumptions in a communicative context. Specifying the role of the presumption of relevance in conceptual change would provide a more comprehensive account of Quinian bootstrapping.

{Folk Epistemology}. Heintz C, Taraborelli D, Pouscoulous N, editors. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 1(4): Thematic issue; 2010.

{Ethnographic cognition and Writing Culture}

I suggest that one of the best ways to pursue and go beyond the programme of Writing Culture is to do cognitive anthropology of anthropology. I will situate Writing Culture with regard to this field of research and I will argue that Writing Culture can contribute to the development of the cognitive anthropology of anthropology. This is because it is sensible to start the anthropological study of anthropology with an analysis of the cultural product – in our case, the ethnographic texts. The analyst can then pick up relevant properties of the cultural product and track down what caused them. Among these causes stand the cognitive processes of actual practitioners, namely working ethnographers. Thus, starting with textual analysis, I argue that some rhetoric conventions analysed in Writing Cultures are informing the reader about the cognitive genesis of the ethnography. These conventions, far from being misleading, are in fact relevant to the reader: in particular information about the cognitive genesis of an ethnographic text enables the reader to evaluate its ethnographic account. This gives me the occasion to briefly specify some cognitive processes at work in the production of ethnographies. These include, I argue, a reflexive and critical cognition that is distributed among the community of anthropologists, and ``mind-reading'' – a cognitive process much studied by cognitive psychologists that enables ethnographers to make sense of the behaviour of indigenous people by attributing mental states to them (beliefs, intentions, desires, feelings).

{The implication of social cognition for experimental economics}

Can human social cognitive processes and social motives be grasped by the methods of experimental economics? Experimental studies of strategic cognition and social preferences contribute to our understanding of the social aspects of economic decisions making. Yet, papers in this issue argue that the social aspects of decision-making introduce several difficulties for interpreting the results of economic experiments. In particular, the laboratory is itself a social context, and in many respects a rather distinctive one, which raises questions of external validity.

{Epistemic Vigilance}

Humans massively depend on communication with others, but this leaves them open to the risk of being accidentally or intentionally misinformed. To ensure that, despite this risk, communication remains advantageous, humans have, we claim, a suite of cognitive mechanisms for epistemic vigilance. Here we outline this claim and consider some of the ways in which epistemic vigilance works in mental and social life by surveying issues, research and theories in different domains of philosophy, linguistics, cognitive psychology and the social sciences.

Heintz C. {Cognitive history and cultural epidemiology}. In: Martin LH, Sorensen J, editors. Past Minds: Studies in Cognitive Historiography. London: Equinox Press; 2009.

{Cognitive history and cultural epidemiology}

Cultural epidemiology is a theoretical framework that enables historical studies to be informed by cognitive science. It incorporates insights from evolutionary psychology (viz. cultural evolution is constrained by universal properties of the human cognitive apparatus that result from biological evolution) and from Darwinian models of cultural evolution (viz. population thinking: cultural phenomena are distributions of resembling items among a community and its habitat). Its research program includes the study of the multiple cognitive mechanisms that cause the distribution, on a cultural scale, of representations and material cultural items. By a detailed analysis of the social cognitive causal chain that occurred in the past, one can find out and specify which are the factors of attraction that account for cultural stability as well as historical cultural change. After reviewing recent research and developments in cognitive history, I present the concept of cultural attractor and explain why cultural attractors are historically variable. In doing so, I emphasize the role of historically constituted cognitive mechanisms, which account for much of historical cultural developments. I argue that the framework of cultural epidemiology can better account for these important historical phenomena than either evolutionary psychology accounts of culture or dual inheritance theory. I conclude that describing and explaining the history of cultural attractors is a good research goal for historians.

{Darwinismes contemporains en sciences humaines}

Nous présentons les travaux en sciences sociales des derniéres cinquante années qui se sont inspirés des études Darwiniennes sur l'évolution. Nous distinguons différents types de Darwinisme en sciences sociales selon l'utilisation des notions Darwiniennes : le Darwinisme biologique est utilisé pour rendre compte des comportements humains et le Darwinisme universel est utilisé pour rendre compte de l'évolution culturel le. Nous concluons sur une description de ce qui nous semble la meilleure exploitation du Darwinisme en sciences sociales, l'épidémiologie culturelle.

{Institutions as Mechanisms of Cultural Evolution: Prospects of the Epidemiological Approach}

Abstract Studying institutions as part of the research on cultural evolu- tion prompts us to analyze one very important mechanism of cultural evolution: institutions do distribute cultural variants in the population. Also, it enables relating current research on cultural evolution to somemore traditional social sciences: institutions, often seen as macro-social entities, are analyzed in terms of their constitutive micro-phenomena. This article presents Sperber's characterization of institutions, and then gives some hints about the set of phenomena to which it applies. Culture evolves through the advent of cognitive causal chains, which span across individuals and their environment, and which distribute mental representations and public production in the population and its habitat. Institutions are characterized by the specific causal chains that distribute representations. These chains include representations that cause the recurrence of a series of events and thus regulate the distribution of a set of representations to which they themselves belong. Saying that some cultural phenomenon is an institution is, in this theoretical framework, explaining that some representations that are part of the cultural phenomenon cause it to endure. This technical characterization applies to what is usually understood as institutions, from marriage to money. It also opens the way for the analysis of complex phenomena in cultural evolution, such as themaintenance of cultural niches and the distribution of labor.

{Cognition scientifique et évolution culturelle: outils théoriques pour incorporer les études cognitives aux études sociales de la science}

Cette thèse préconise d'utiliser des outils théoriques de l'anthropologie cognitive pour l'étude scientifique de la science. Ces outils sont l'émiologie des représentations, développée par Dan Sperber, et l'étude de la cognition distribuée, telle qu'elle à été développée par Ed Hutchins. Ces deux théories, qui sont par ailleurs étroitement liées, ont pour apport essentiel de permettre d'intégrer les études cognitives et sociales de la science. Deux études d'histoire des mathématiques illustrent le potentiel explicatif de ces théories : le développement du calcul infinitésimal en France au début du 18ème siècle, et l'avènement des ordinateurs dans la pratique des mathématiques, marqué par la preuve du théorème des quatre couleurs.

{Web search engines and distributed assessment systems}

I analyse the impact of search engines on our cognitive and epistemic practices. For that purpose, I describe the processes of assessment of documents on the Web as relying on distributed cognition. Search engines together with Web users, are distributed assessment systems whose task is to enable efficient allocation of cognitive resources of those who use search engines. Specifying the cognitive function of search engines within these distributed assessment systems allows interpreting anew the changes that have been caused by search engine technologies. I describe search engines as implementing reputation systems and point out the similarities with other reputation systems. I thus call attention to the continuity in the distributed cognitive processes that determine the allocation of cognitive resources for information gathering from others.

Heintz C. {What do we get when dipping a brain into science?}. In: Bara BG, Barsalou L, Bucciarelli M, editors. Proceedings of the XXVII Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates; 2005. p. 917-22.

{What do we get when dipping a brain into science?}

I argue that scientific cognition can be accounted for in a massive modularity theoretical framework. Scientific cognition is then described as a culturally informed reflection, allowed by meta-representational abilities, upon the mandatory output of preliminary modules.

{Studies in Cognitive Anthropology of Science}. Heintz C, editor. Journal of Cognition and Culture 4 (3-4): Thematic issues; 2004.

{Introduction: Why There Should Be a Cognitive Anthropology of Science}

I argue that questions, methods and theories drawn from cognitive anthropology are particularly appropriate for the study of science. I also emphasize the role of cognitive anthropology of science for the integration of cognitive and social studies of science. Finally, I briefly introduce the papers and attempt to draw the main directions of research.

Heintz C. {Can mathematical concepts allow cultural analysis: An illustration}. In: Goggin J, Loontjes J, editors. Travelling Concept II: Frame, Meaning and Metaphor. Amsterdam: ASCA Press; 2002.