CV & Biography
Cognitive Gadgets
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All Souls


Cognitive Gadgets

Academic Monograph


Harvard University Press 2018

Precis of the book with commentaries and author’s response:
Behavioral and Brain Sciences

We humans have created not just physical machines—such as pulleys, traps, carts, and internal combustion engines—but also mental machines; mechanisms of thought, embodied in our nervous systems, that enable our minds to go further, faster, and in different directions than the minds of other animals. These distinctively human cognitive mechanisms include causal understanding, episodic memory, imitation, mindreading, normative thinking, and many more. They are “gadgets”, rather than “instincts”, because, like many physical devices, they are products of cultural rather than genetic evolution. New cognitive mechanisms—different ways of thinking—have emerged, not by genetic mutation, but by innovations in cognitive development. These novelties have been passed on to subsequent generations, not via genes, but through social learning: people with a new cognitive mechanism passed it onto others through social interaction. And some of the new ways of thinking have spread through human populations, while others have died out, because the holders had more “students”, not just more “babies”.

Summary for General Readership
Cognitive gadgets - how culture works with evolution to produce human cognition. Aeon, 17 April 2019
Reviews and Responses

Acta Biotheoretica - Mark Stanford

American Journal of Psychology - Bill Rowe (in press)

The Behavioral and Brain Sciences – Precis of the book, 17 essay reviews, author’s response. Ian Apperly; Paul Badcock, Axel Constantd & Maxwell Ramstead; Edward Baggs, Vicente Rajaband & Michael L. Anderson; Senne Braem & Bernhard Hommel; Marco Del Giudice; Peter Ford Dominey; Marco Fenici & Duilio Garofoli; Gian Domenico Iannetti & Giorgio Vallortigara; Eva Jablonka, Simona Ginsburg & Daniel Dor; Rita Anne McNamara & Tia Neha; Lindsey J. Powell; Charles Rathkopf & Daniel Dennett; Paul E. Smaldino & Michael J. Spivey; Dan Sperber; Claudio Tennie; Penny Van Bergen & John Sutton; Andrew Whiten

British Journal of the Philosophy of Science - Philip Gerrans (in press)

The Enlightened Economist - Diane Coyle

The European Legacy - Tim Cloudsley

History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences - Ivan Gonzalez-Cabrera

Journal of Cognition and Culture - Ryan Nichols

Leonardo - Jan Baetens

Los Angeles Review of Books - Frans de Waal

Marginal Revolution - Tyler Cowen

Medium - T. J. Elliott

Mind and Language – Three essay reviews Daniel Dor, Simona Ginsburg & Eva Jablonka; Aida Roige & Peter Carruthers; Olivier Morin and response from Cecilia Heyes

Quarterly Review of Biology - Carl Brusse


Celia Heyes on Cognitive Gadgets. Social Science Bites, June 2018

New thoughts on thinking. The Psychologist, July 2018

How did our minds evolve? Connect 13, 2018

Cognitive Gadgets. Interview by Russell Gray, Director of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany, November 2018

The cultural origins of cognition. Scientific Inquirer, 8 January 2019

The Evolution of Cognition. The Measure of Everyday Life, US public radio, March 2019

Cultural Evolutionary Psychology. The Dissenter, 29 July 2019

Cognitive Gadgets. Brain Science with Ginger Campbell, MD. 28 February, 2020

Cognitive Gadgets: How Culture Influences Thinking. The Art and Science of Learning with Dr Kinga Petrovai, 28 July 2020.

Psychological Mechanisms Forged By Cultural Evolution. The Psychological Science Podcast, 1 August 2020