Numbers in Minds: From (Non)Human Universality to Cultural Specificity|
In contemporary cognitive science, there is heated debate over the proper way to draw distinctions between human and nonhuman thought (the identification of phylogenetic continuities and discontinuities) and over the meaningful distinctions to be drawn between different kinds of human thought (the identification of cultural universals and specificities). Current thinking in the field spans the range from strongly universalist opinions, such as those arguing for massive modularity of evolutionarily ancient cognitive systems, to views such as those becoming more prevalent with the rise of dynamic systems approaches, which reject the assumptions underlying much of current cognitive psychology and espouse "treating the larger animal-environment system (not just the brain) as the arena in which cognition emerges," Spivey & Dale, 2006). In this course, we will explore these debates using the domain of numerical and mathematical thinking and reasoning as a case study. Some philosophers and psychologists argue that even relatively basic forms of quantitative thought are available to human minds alone. Others credit many nonhuman species with sophisticated numerical and mathematical capabilities, bestowed by evolution. Still others believe that while the foundations of human numerical thinking may be evolutionarily ancient (and common to all humans and many nonhuman animals), most of what we commonly think of as "math" and "number" is a product not only of human minds, but of specific human cultures, languages, and educational practices. We will begin with an introduction to the conceptual foundations of these debates and will then focus on their specific instantiation in the area of numerical and mathematical thought.
Interpretation: Students will be presented with a number of case studies in cognitive science in which the same sets of data have been interpreted in radically different manners; class discussion will focus on the evaluation of these competing interpretations.
Writing: Students will complete weekly essays in response to assigned readings, in addition to completing a research paper requiring multiple drafts with multiple stages of feedback.
||Gen Ed Area Dept:
|Course Format: Seminar||Grading Mode: Graded|
||Fulfills a Major Requirement for: None
||Past Enrollment Probability: Not Available
|Major Readings: Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore
Readings will be drawn from both the primary research literature and from secondary sources such as Laurence, Margolis, Rips, Sperber, Lakoff, Nuņez, Pinker, Carey, Gordon, Everett, Frege, Fodor, Spivey, Gallistel, Gelman, Dehaene, Carruthers, Cosmides, Tooby, and Gigerenzer.
|Examinations and Assignments: |
Weekly essays on assigned readings, participation in discussion, and a final paper with multiple drafts.
|Additional Requirements and/or Comments: |
Only one Wesleyan University course can be taken as non-graded towards the major. Students must demonstrate the ability to read and comprehend original reserach reports in psychology and/or neuroscience. Interested students should email the instructor to obtain an application for POI during the planning period.
|Instructor(s): Barth,Hilary C. Times: ..T.... 01:10PM-04:00PM; Location: CFH106; |
|Permission of Instructor Required|
Enrollment capacity: 18
|Permission of instructor will be granted during the drop/add period. Students must submit either a ranked or unranked drop/add request for this course.|
|Drop/Add Enrollment Requests|
|Total Submitted Requests: 0||1st Ranked: 0||2nd Ranked: 0||3rd Ranked: 0||4th Ranked: 0||Unranked: 0|