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RE: still posting for Andrew

I agree with your criticism of Nisbett, Andrew. What I call about getting
from a "rationalistic" approach is more related to the idea that we have
some sort of biological a prioris, such as a module for mathematics, than
with the idea that we are rational beings. At the end, what I distrust is
"essentialism" and not rationalism. In Latin America, I have known a very
different sort of essentialism, applied this time to "culture". Some
thinkers see Latin American culture as a consequence of the marriage between
the Spaniards conquerors and the native population. This marriage would
cristalize in Latin American popular religions and it has been proposed that
this original configuration would explain why both capitalism and social
reformism have failed. So these authors make a jum from the times of Spanish
domination to contemporary history. A shorter jump than the one evolutionary
psychology make from genetics to contemporary cognition, but the gist is the
same. One can see mind as essential and culture as being essential. I prefer
to see both as dynamic and reciprocally fluid.

David D. Preiss
home page: http://pantheon.yale.edu/~ddp6/

-----Original Message-----
From: Andrew Babson [mailto:ababson@umich.edu]
Sent: Thursday, July 01, 2004 1:49 PM
To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
Subject: RE: still posting for Andrew

Thanks for your thoughts on this, David. I was at a conference last week
(International Conference of the Learning Sciences) and in a symposium, the
_utility_ of one of the presenter's beliefs was questioned. What I thought
was interesting about that comment was that it was neither the validity of
the theory, nor its integrity, but its utility.

I think of the same thing when I think of much of Nisbett's work. Some of
his ideas are "good to think" but as you point out are too coarsely grained
to be called anthropological and really that useful for cross-cultural
study. For example, he provides evidence of differences between Japanese and
American language and behavior, but equates Japan with East Asian and USA
with West. Interesting, useful as a starting point, but not thorough enough
to stand up to anthropological scrutiny, especially when addressing

In my master's dissertation I wrote about, to reference Mabel and Steve's
posts, the embodied mind and the intellecutal history of the mind/body
split's influence on modern ("Western") epistemology. It seems my ideas on
this tie into your idea, David, about getting away from a "rationalistic"


-----Original Message-----
From: David Preiss [mailto:davidpreiss@puc.cl]
Sent: Wednesday, June 30, 2004 3:32 PM
To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
Subject: RE: still posting for Andrew

The issue of the interaction between cultural psychology and evolutionary
psychology is quite relevant for me. I share Mike's problems with Nisbett's
approach. I see culture more as a dynamic phenomenon than as a static
consequence of belonging to a group such as "the south", north and whatever.
I see culture as dynamic and permeable to multiple influences. The notion
that "culture" is something that you take with you because you are born in
the South, North, West or whatever makes little honor to the fact that
however the differences cultures are in constant dialogue. We move through
cultures and do not carry those cultures immune to any influence. I also
have problems in buying some of the core domain theory approaches as they
may lead us to conclude that culture does not exist (as in Pinker) or that
culture is just the blossoming of our biological dispositions. (A friend of
mine with a sense of humor spoke of this approach as believing that the
university departments match the modules of the mind.) Indeed, some of these
authors make quite a jump from genetics to contemporary cognition without
taking in consideration the socio interactive process that gave birth to
what they think is a module. Still, I do believe that evolutionary
psychology is relevant. But would like to see the contemporary
"rationalistic" approach towards these issues replaced by one that takes in
consideration the interaction between phylogeny, social history and ontogeny

David D. Preiss
home page: http://pantheon.yale.edu/~ddp6/

-----Original Message-----
From: Mike Cole [mailto:mcole@weber.ucsd.edu]
Sent: Wednesday, June 30, 2004 1:24 PM
To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
Subject: still posting for Andrew

First, thanks a lot Professor Cole for helping me post and offering the
reading suggestion.

Second, to address your clarifying question... I was referring to Hirschfeld
and Nisbett's group at U of M that studies cognition and culture. At the LSE
I studied a lot about cognition and culture from this basically evolutionary
psychological perpsective, which differed slightly from a Maurice Bloch/Rita
Astuti "anthropology of learning and cognition" perspective.

In my doctoral studies at U of M I'll continue to explore this interest in
whether or not cultural psychology and the evolutionary perspective on
development are compatible. It remains to be seen how I'll fit this in to my
main project, however, which is looking into how computers and the net have
and will allow users to engage in new and possibly improved educative



Just a quick answer.
Your are packing a lot of different topics into this question, Andrew.
Hirschfeld does very different work than Nisbett et al. And the
Bloch and Astuti work, while well known perhaps at the LSE, is less
likely to be known to XMCA members (I know a little of it). Could
you provide some references on the latter.

Regarding the former. We have not, to my knowledge, ever discussed
the issue of cognitive styles and cultural variation on xmca. I
personally have difficulty with both the forms of experimentation
used in the work of Nisbett, Kitayama, et al, which treats culture
as shared very broadly (the West and Rest kind of characterization)
because I do not believe that culture is so uniformaly shared. Nor
do I believe that the experimental tests are as generalizable as
the authors would like us to believe. The question of mixing
core domain theory and essentialism (Hirschfeld) and cultural
variation is one that I believe bears some potentially useful
ways to think about the intertwining of natural and cultural
lines of development in Vygotsky.

I simply don't know the extent to which these issues are of
interest to xmca members. But by asking, you and I will find out!
-----Original Message-----
>From: Mike Cole [mailto:mcole@weber.ucsd.edu]
Sent: Wednesday, June 30, 2004 11:59 AM
To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
Subject: question for Andrew

Andrew-- I am not sure what you mean by the culture and cognition school.
Do you mean cross-cultural approaches to the study of culture and cognition?

A general article on this topic can be found at http://lchc.ucsd.edu on the
publications page.