The Cultural Mind: Environmental Decision Making and Cultural Modeling Within and Across Populations

Scott Atran, Douglas L. Medin, Norbert O. Ross
2005 Psychological review  
This paper describes a cross-cultural research project on the relation between how people conceptualize nature (their mental models) and how they act in it. Mental models of nature differ dramatically among and within populations living in the same area and engaged in more or less the same activities. This has novel implications for environmental decision making and management, including dealing with commons problems. Our research also offers a distinct perspective on models of culture, and a
more » ... ified approach to the study of culture and cognition. We argue that cultural transmission and formation does not consist primarily in shared rules or norms, but in complex distributions of causally-connected representations across minds in interaction with the environment. The cultural stability and diversity of these representations often derives from rich, biologically-prepared mental mechanisms that limit variation to readily transmissible psychological forms. This framework addresses a series of methodological issues, such as the limitations of conceiving culture to be a well-defined system or bounded entity, an independent variable, or an internalized component of minds.
doi:10.1037/0033-295x.112.4.744 pmid:16262467 fatcat:wpxcof5yvbhjva6rnptnlabiva