The Art & Science of Learning

The Art & Science of Learning

5. Cognitive Gadgets: How culture influences thinking (Prof Cecilia Heyes)

July 28, 2020

Humans have not only created physical machines, but also mental machines, which my guest calls cognitive gadgets, that enable our minds to go farther, faster and in different directions than the minds of other animals.

Professor Cecilia Heyes is Senior Research Fellow in psychology at All Souls College at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of the British Academy. Cecilia trained as an experimental psychologist at University College London and was a Harkness Fellow in the United States, as well as a research fellow at Trinity Hall at Cambridge University. She returned to UCL as a faculty member before coming to Oxford. Her work in experimental and theoretical psychology examines the evolution of human cognition. It explores the ways in which natural selection, learning, developmental and cultural processes combine to produce the mature cognitive abilities found in adult humans. Most of her current projects suggest that the neurocognitive mechanisms enabling cultural inheritance - social learning, imitation, mirror neurons, mind reading etc - are themselves the products of cultural evolution. In 2018 Cecilia published her latest book on these topics, titled Cognitive Gadgets: The Cultural Evolution of Thinking.