What are the psychological bases of the rich social interactions and cultural life that characterise human societies? This course will review some of the answers provided by recent studies in cognitive psychology, evolutionary psychology and social anthropology. It will cover a wide range of topics related to social cognition and human sociality, including:
- Mind reading
- Naive sociology
- Communication, social learning, imitation
- The biological evolution of social cognitive capacities
- Models of Man in the social sciences
- The cultural diversity of human psychology
- How human psychology constrains culture
- Models of cultural evolution
- Co-operation and moral cognition
(Note that some key themes will be omitted. Joint action, for instance, has been taught in N. Sebanz and G. Knoblich’s research course. Mind-reading is a key ability that ground most aspects of our social life, but it will be dealt more thoroughly in D. Samson’s elective course. I have also included no brain studies).
The course is structured in three parts that focus on different aspects of social cognition and human sociality. The first parts is focused on the social cognitive skills that humans have. It will include sessions on mind-reading, social perception and naïve sociology, and the biological evolution of social cognition. The two last parts are focused on culture and cognition. The second part will review social scientists’ take on human psychology and how it influences their understanding of social phenomena. The third part will deal with specific themes in cognition and culture: morality, religion and science.