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Heintz Christophe | Fellow Postdoctoral
2007-04-16 - 2009-04-15 | Research area: Cognition and Sociality
The Co-evolution of Scientific Cognition and Institutions
The project consists of an analysis of the historical evolution of scientific knowledge that integrates social studies of science and studies on the biological basis of cognition from evolutionary psychology. My research investigates how cognitive abilities with a plausible evolutionary history can beget scientific knowledge. The conclusion I have drawn is that scientific thinking heavily relies on the cultural environment, which provides the interpretative framework for scientific reasoning. Social intelligence and metarepresentative abilities put innate inference processes (designed by evolution) at work on cultural scientific environments. The latter are thus being exploited and enriched by minds that need not be either domain general calculating devices or extremely plastic and evolving structures. On the other hand, the evolution of science is said to rely on the interaction between the social and the cognitive factors in scientific knowledge production. In order to understand the processes of co-evolution of culture and cognition in the history of science, I have especially drawn on the theoretical resources of cognitive anthropology (Sperber's epidemiology of representation, Hutchins' distributed cognition) and situated cognition. The project consists in showing the relevance of another theoretical resource, New Institutional Economics, in order to account for an understudied form of co-evolution of cognition and culture: the co-evolution of scientific institutions and scientific cognition. The evolution of scientific institutions is of special interest because institutions provide the rules of proper scientific practices that constrain and empower scientific thinking. Also, economic models of the emergence of institutions promise to be relevant to evolutionary epistemology because they provide a framework allowing for the study of the flow of information in social structure with models of agents that are psychologically adequate. Also, evolutionary game theory provides the formal basis of Institutional Economics, thus placing my own research in an evolutionary perspective. My case study shall be the institutions that organize the access to scientific information, such as journals, ISI’s evaluative processes and, recently, the Internet. These institutions, indeed, determine scientists' trusting behaviour and need be incorporated in an account of scientific cognitive processes for the attribution of cognitive resources to scientific sources of information.