Publications of Heintz, C

Facing expectations: Those that we prefer to fulfil and those that we disregard

We argue that people choosing prosocial distribution of goods (e.g., in dictator games) make this choice because they do not want to disappoint their partner rather than because of a direct preference for the chosen prosocial distribution. The chosen distribution is a means to fulfil one's partner's expectations. We review the economic experiments that corroborate this hypothesis and the experiments that deny that beliefs about others' expectations motivate prosocial choice. We then formulate hypotheses about what types of expectation motivate someone to do what is expected: these are justifiable hopeful expectations that are clearly about his own choices. We experimentally investigate how people modulate their prosociality when they face low or unreasonably high expectations. In a version of a dictator game, we provide dictators with the opportunity to modulate their transfer as a function of their partner's expectations. We observe that a significant portion of the population is willing to fulfil their partner's expectation provided that this expectation expresses a reasonable hope. We conclude that people are averse to disappointing and we discuss what models of social preferences can account for the role of expectations in determining prosocial choice, with a special attention to models of guilt aversion and social esteem.

Presuming placeholders are relevant enables conceptual change. Commentary on Carey's précis of The Origin of Concept

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.

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.

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. I argue that some rhetoric conventions analysed in Writing Cultures are informing the reader about the cognitive genesis of the ethnography. These conventions are 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 – 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).

Heintz C. Cognitive history and cultural epidemiology. In: Martin LH, Sorensen J, editors. Past Minds: Studies in Cognitive Historiography. London: Equinox Press; 2010.

Cognitive history and cultural epidemiology

Cultural epidemiology is a theoretical framework that enables historical studies to be informed by cognitive science. It incorporates some insights from evolutionary psychology and some from Darwinian models of cultural evolution. Its research program include 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 evolutionary psychology accounts of culture and dual inheritance theory. I conclude that describing and explaining the history of cultural attractors is a good research question for historians.

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.

Experimental economics and the social embedding of economic behavior and cognition

Special Issue of Journal Mind & Society 2010, 9 (2)

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’´evolution. 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 utilis´e 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

Studying institutions as part of the research on cultural evolution 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 some more 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.

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.

The ecological rationality of strategic cognition

I argue that altruistic behavior and its variation across cultures may be caused by mental cognitive mechanisms that induce cooperative behavior in contract-like situations and adapt that behavior to the kinds of contracts that exist in one’s socio-cultural environment. I thus present a cognitive alternative to Henrich et al.’s motivation-based account. Rather than behaving in ways that reveal preferences, subjects interpret the experiment in ways that cue their social heuristics. In order to distinguish the respective roles of preferences and cognitive processes that determine economic behavior, we need more ethnography of strategies “in the wild.”

Studies in Cognitive Anthropology of Science. Vol 4 (3-4). Heintz C, editor. Journal of Cognition and Culture; 2004. (Thematic issue; vol 4 (3-4)).

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 of the volume and attempt to draw the main directions of research.