The Shape of Thought: How Mental Adaptations Evolve

Paperback | February 5, 2015

byH. Clark Barrett

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The Shape of Thought: How Mental Adaptations Evolve presents a road map for an evolutionary psychology of the twenty-first century. It brings together theory from biology and cognitive science to show how the brain can be composed of specialized adaptations, and yet also an organ ofplasticity. Although mental adaptations have typically been seen as monolithic, hard-wired components frozen in the evolutionary past, The Shape of Thought presents a new view of mental adaptations as diverse and variable, with distinct functions and evolutionary histories that shape how theydevelop, what information they use, and what they do with that information. The book describes how advances in evolutionary developmental biology can be applied to the brain by focusing on the design of the developmental systems that build it. Crucially, developmental systems can be plastic, designed by the process of natural selection to build adaptive phenotypes using therich information available in our social and physical environments. This approach bridges the long-standing divide between "nativist" approaches to development, based on innateness, and "empiricist" approaches, based on learning. It shows how a view of humans as a flexible, culturally-dependentspecies is compatible with a complexly specialized brain, and how the nature of our flexibility can be better understood by confronting the evolved design of the organ on which that flexibility depends.

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The Shape of Thought: How Mental Adaptations Evolve presents a road map for an evolutionary psychology of the twenty-first century. It brings together theory from biology and cognitive science to show how the brain can be composed of specialized adaptations, and yet also an organ ofplasticity. Although mental adaptations have typically...

H. Clark Barrett is an evolutionary anthropologist who studies the evolution of cognition. For the past fifteen years he has conducted field work in the Amazon region of Ecuador, and uses experimental cognitive tasks across cultures to test hypotheses about the evolution of the mind. He is now Professor of Anthropology at the Universi...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:416 pages, 9.21 × 6.1 × 1.18 inPublished:February 5, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199348316

ISBN - 13:9780199348312

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsIntroduction: The problemPart 1. Evolution1. Additivism2. Hill-climbingPart 2. Information3. Adding value4. Social ontology5. MindsPart 3. Development6. Development7. Open endsPart 4. Culture8. Moving targets9. Culture10. AccumulationPart 5. Architecture11. Parts12. Wholes13. UsConclusion: PossibilitiesReferencesIndex

Editorial Reviews

"Clark Barrett takes the reader from the basics of evolutionary psychology to exciting stuff at the cutting-edge of today's research. He does so with splendid clarity, illuminating examples, and an engaging balance of wisdom and passion. An important book and an excellent read!" --Dan Sperber, Professor of Cognitive Science and of Philosophy at the Central European University, Budapest