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Cognition is … Fundamentally Cultural

Department of Psychology, University of Freiburg, Engelberger Straße 41, D-79085 Freiburg, Germany
Department of Human Sciences, University of Paderborn, Warburger Str. 100, D-33098 Paderborn, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Behav. Sci. 2013, 3(1), 42-54;
Received: 3 December 2012 / Revised: 11 December 2012 / Accepted: 17 December 2012 / Published: 4 January 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue What is Cognition?)
PDF [67 KB, uploaded 4 January 2013]


A prevailing concept of cognition in psychology is inspired by the computer metaphor. Its focus on mental states that are generated and altered by information input, processing, storage and transmission invites a disregard for the cultural dimension of cognition, based on three (implicit) assumptions: cognition is internal, processing can be distinguished from content, and processing is independent of cultural background. Arguing against each of these assumptions, we point out how culture may affect cognitive processes in various ways, drawing on instances from numerical cognition, ethnobiological reasoning, and theory of mind. Given the pervasive cultural modulation of cognition—on all of Marr’s levels of description—we conclude that cognition is indeed fundamentally cultural, and that consideration of its cultural dimension is essential for a comprehensive understanding. View Full-Text
Keywords: cognition; culture; computer metaphor; numerical cognition; ethnobiological reasoning; theory of mind cognition; culture; computer metaphor; numerical cognition; ethnobiological reasoning; theory of mind
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Bender, A.; Beller, S. Cognition is … Fundamentally Cultural. Behav. Sci. 2013, 3, 42-54.

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