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here are cases in which an organism, such as a bonobo, develops in
a symbol-enriched environment and subsequently displays massively in-
creased symbolic capacities. Consider Kanzi, the human-raised bonobo
that has been central to both the life and research of the primatolo-
gist Sue Savage-Rumbaugh. Kanzi has been thoroughly enculturated,
and engages in sophisticated linguistic communication through a 256-
symbol keyboard that he can carry with him. Given Kanzi™s actual de-
velopmental environment, Kanzi plus a 256-symbol keyboard forms a
cognitive system with memory and other cognitive capacities that far
exceed those of just Kanzi. (Much the same holds true of Alex, Irene
Pepperberg™s African grey parrot.) My point here is not the trivial one
that enriched environments can causally produce smarter critters; rather,
it is that what metaphysically determines the smartness of at least some
critters is their being part of wide cognitive systems. To connect this
back to Donald™s views of human cognition and its evolution, we are cer-
tainly such creatures, although I also think that we are not alone in this
respect.10
In illustrating this perspective by invoking these exotic sorts of case I
do not mean to imply that memory is locationally wide only in extreme or
unusual circumstances. Rather, the real import of these cases is that they
Thinking Through and Beyond the Body
196

provide us with a way to think about everyday, human memory. Both our
day-to-day acts of remembering and the systems that those acts involve are
locationally wide, drawing as they do on the symbolic and nonsymbolic
environments that we individually and collectively create, from the more
obvious forms of external storage devices, such as notepads, diaries, books
and memos, to the daily routines we form to structure our lives and the
habits that form us and the structure of our lives. This is not chie¬‚y a
developmental point, one about how we come to possess rich internal
structures, memories, that guide our lives; nor is it a claim about what
stimulates or prompts particular acts of memory. Rather, it is a claim
about what is at the heart of memory, what memory is: It is a locationally
wide ability that creatures like us have that allows us to make use of the
past in acting for the future.
Such a conception of memory is implicit in the work of those, such
as Michael Cole and Paul Connerton, whose interests lie in the use of
memory in speci¬c, culturally mediated activities. Cole develops the
Vygotskyan view of cognition as a mediated activity that relies as much
on external as on internal symbols, symbols that are culturally loaded
and are to be understood in terms of their location in a broader cultural
system; I shall discuss it further in section 5 on cognitive development.
Connerton, by contrast, views what he calls social memory not primarily
as inscriptional, a matter of encoding, but as performative in nature,
where the performances establish both individual and cultural habits.
The idea of procedural memory, and the distinction between procedu-
ral and episodic memory, is well entrenched in individualistic paradigms
within psychology, and Connerton extends this idea to apply collectively
to whole groups of individuals. Performances, things that we do, are
both bodily and ritualistic in that they involve the repetition of the per-
formance in light of the perceived past, where this past is the shared past
of a group of individuals. Performance is memory in action.11
Although Connerton™s argument concentrates on speci¬c rituals in
just one historical episode “ the ritualistic beheading of Louis XVI in the
French Revolution and the ways in which body posture and dress style
changed in the aftermath of the revolution “ the conception of social
memory that he develops is quite general. It applies to how we greet
others; how we lock and unlock our doors; how and what we eat; the
forms of entertainment we engage in; our work styles and choices; how
and where we sleep; what, whether, and how we drive; how we read; how
we die. Individual habits and civil rituals act reciprocally to in¬‚uence
both how individual and collective memories are constructed, and the
The Embedded Mind and Cognition 197

way in which they direct individuals and societies. This perspective on
memory invokes a wide psychological conception, a reason why it marks
a somewhat radical departure from memory as it has been chie¬‚y studied
within departments of psychology. In the little that I have said here, I hope
it is clear that such a conception of memory was not, however, always alien
to the experimental tradition of research. In fact, it would have been quite
familiar to someone like Bartlett.
There are two caveats to enter about the externalist conception of
memory that I have advocated here. First, “memory,” like “cognition,” is
something of a catch-all term, and the phenomena it refers to are ubiqui-
tous in our mental lives: in language acquisition and use, the performance
and learning of skills, communication and socializing, daily routines, and
any form of employment. If memory is externalized, then so too is much
of our cognitive life. While I have suggested that we think of memory as a
locationally wide system that constitutes a form of exploitative representa-
tion, I don™t mean to impose a false unity on the diverse manifestations of
memory in everyday life. Second, both Donald and Rowlands present ex-
ternalist conceptions of memory in terms of the distinctions traditionally
used to characterize memory “ between episodic and semantic memory,
implicit and explicit memory, procedural and declarative memory, and
long-term and short-term memory. This enhances the impression that the
externalist view of cognition is primarily an extension of existing ways of
thinking about memory beyond the head, and I have followed Donald
and Rowlands part of the way here. Yet if truth be told, many of these
distinctions seem to me to be problematic, to be understood and used
inconsistently by psychologists, and to stand in need of radical rethink-
ing. Insofar as the externalist view suggests further modi¬cations to how
memory is conceptualized, some of these may be extensions of existing
dichotomies, others replacements for them.
In concluding my discussion of the claim that mental states have a
wide realization in Chapter 6, I raised and addressed the question of
whether this entailed that the subjects or bearers of such states were
themselves locationally wide, that is, larger than individual organisms. A
similar question can be raised about conceptualizing memory in terms
of a locationally externalist system: Does this mean that memories do
not belong to individual people, but are only a part of some collective
memory or (worse) free-¬‚oating cognitive ¬‚otsam?
The short answer is “No,” and we can explain why by returning again
to the idea of a locus of control. We do have forms of external memory
storage, such as diaries, which while deriving from (and often recording,
Thinking Through and Beyond the Body
198

in part) an individual™s mental life, can exist beyond the life of their
author and come to be accessed as a form of memory by others. And
each time any one of us speaks or writes in a communicative context, we
create tokens of external symbols that constitute a common symbol pool
from which each of us draws. But these become integrated into an overall
cognitive system that we control, and that control is critical to cognition
being ours and to bearing on our lives as agents. Each of us forms a
core part of a speci¬c wide memory system, one in which we serve as a
locus of control. And that is why the individual remains the entity that
has memories, even if memory is neither taxonomically nor locationally
individualistic.


5 cognitive development
Research on cognitive development, particularly that of the last twenty-
¬ve years, has produced fascinating data about the richness of the inter-
nal representational structures that infants and young children have. This
research has brought with it a sea change in how children™s minds are
conceived, implying that children have signi¬cantly richer, more speci¬c
knowledge than previous research had indicated. Moreover, the corre-
sponding cognitive mechanisms that generate such knowledge appear
to be in place at signi¬cantly younger ages than previously thought, in
some cases at birth or shortly thereafter. The common-sense view, largely
accepted and developed within earlier developmental psychology, holds
that cognitive abilities are heterogeneous across children, they develop
largely through learning and other forms of environmental interaction,
and anything like adult abilities only begin to appear after the age at
which children begin formal schooling in Western societies. By contrast,
the picture of cognitive development painted by the research of the last
twenty-¬ve years is one of widely-shared abilities with a rich, innate com-
ponent that differ from those of adults in many ways but not in terms of
their basic cognitive nature.
To make this contrast more concrete, consider two striking examples.
One might think that the concept of number is acquired by the child
through long-term exposure to basic mathematics at a relatively late age,
or that the concept of a physical object is acquired through an inductive
extrapolation from exposure to instances of physical objects over time.
Intuitively, the possession of each of these concepts seems to be a cogni-
tive achievement gained through relevant experience with the world. In-
deed, this was the accepted view of these concepts within developmental
The Embedded Mind and Cognition 199

psychology, largely due to the in¬‚uence of Piaget™s interactionist view of
cognitive development. By contrast, the “new” developmental psychology,
using sensitive (and clever) experimental techniques, indicates that in-
fants early in their ¬rst year of life are already acting in ways that imply
that they have some concept of number and of physical object. At this
age, there has been no instruction in mathematics, and little opportunity
to extrapolate from instances. Thus, the data suggest that these concepts
are not acquired in these ways. Moreover, these concepts seem present so
early in the life of the child that there is reason to think that they are not
acquired at all, but instead are innate, part of the intrinsic endowment
of the child, with the development of these concepts merely triggered by
environmental stimulation, not shaped by it.12
This strand of nativism in recent work on cognitive development cor-
responds to one dimension I identi¬ed in strong nativist views of cogni-
tion in Part One, the external minimalism thesis. This work also mani-
fests the other dimension to strong nativist views, the internal richness
thesis, through its commitment to the modularity of cognitive develop-
ment. Characterized generally, the new developmental psychology views
preschool children and infants as having domain-speci¬c, cognitive mod-
ules, including not only modules for knowledge about physical objects
and number during infancy, but also those for biology, social relation-
ships, and minds. This knowledge ascribed to infants and young children
has typically been understood in terms of the child™s possessing a theory
about the relevant domains, which lead her to expect certain outcomes
rather than others, and thus behave in some ways rather than others.13
Like the maturational view of cognitive development that endorses the
external minimalism thesis, this aspect to contemporary research puts it
at odds not just with common sense but with much of the earlier work on
development. Included here is work conducted within an associationist
framework, and that within the Piagetian, constructivist tradition, each
of which has claimed that cognitive development is driven by domain-
general processes, such as learning and stage-relative d´ calage. These
e
recent claims not only ¬‚y in the face of the received folk and scienti¬c
wisdom of the past, but also raise many questions about the nature of
development that were previously unasked.
For example, if infants begin with at least some domain-speci¬c, con-
ceptual knowledge, how is that knowledge used in the development of
children™s later domain-speci¬c knowledge? Given the characterization
of the child as a theorist of sorts, what is the relationship between the
child and the scientist, or between development and scienti¬c change?
Thinking Through and Beyond the Body
200

What place is there in this conception for more global, domain-general
processes in cognitive development of the sort that had, until recently,
populated the mind of the child within developmental psychology? Such
questions are the subject of ongoing research within the “new” develop-
mental psychology.
There are limitations to the individualistic way in which this paradigm
thus far has been and can be developed. There are also natural ways to
extend the gambit of a developmental psychology that incorporates and
builds on its insights. The massive redescription of the nature and extent
of the child™s knowledge at the heart of recent developmental psychology
has concentrated on the structure of an infant or child™s internal mental
representations, on what it is that the child does or doesn™t know about
the relevant domain at a given age, and on the internal mechanisms gov-
erning developmental change. If infants and children know signi¬cantly
more than theorists had previously ascribed to them, as they appear to,
then views of later developmental changes will also almost certainly need
to be modi¬ed, since the state of (say) the three-year-old from which the
(say) eight-year-old develops is not what it was once thought to be. But
ultimately this nativist emphasis within the new developmental psychol-
ogy must move beyond the head in making sense of the full pattern of
cognitive development.
One way of augmenting the resulting individualistic perspective on
development is via the mediational approach that derives from the work
of the Russian psychologists Lev Vygotsky and Alexander Luria in the
1930s that I mentioned in passing in the previous section. Motivating
this view was, in Luria™s words, the idea that

[t]he chasm between natural scienti¬c explanations of elementary processes and
mentalist descriptions of complex processes could not be bridged until we could
discover the way natural processes such as physical maturation and sensory mech-
anisms become intertwined with culturally determined processes to produce the
psychological functions of adults.14

This idea carried with it the working assumption that individual mental
abilities are signi¬cantly modi¬ed by the various mediational tools that
they employ. Such mediators include maps, tools, and other artifacts,
numerical systems, memory aids, and, most importantly for Vygotsky,
spoken and written language. All such mediators are not only cultural
products in that they are the products of particular cultural histories and
thus are available to an individual only within the corresponding cultural
contexts. In addition, they are employed primarily within the context of
The Embedded Mind and Cognition 201

social interaction and facilitation, typically in small groups or dyads. As
Vygotsky says, “The path from object to child and from child to object
passes through another person. This complex human structure is the
product of a developmental process deeply rooted in the links between
individual and social history.”15
For Vygotsky, higher thought processes, such as remembering, attend-
ing, and speaking, are essentially mediational, and thus social. Cognitive
development is not, like embryological development, primarily the un-
folding of existing structures in accord with some ¬xed, biological pro-
gram, but a dialectical or dynamic process that involves in-the-head men-
tal structures, beyond-the-head mediators, and the social context in which
they interact. Humans have natural psychological abilities, but these are
qualitatively different from the forms they take when they are deployed
together with speci¬c mediators. Attention or memory without the di-
rection provided by spoken, communicative language or other external
aids, are ¬‚eeting and transient. Literacy, the ability to read and write, itself
augments and restructures signi¬cant aspects of thought and language,
including the size of the lexicon, the development of metalinguistic abil-
ities, and strategies of memorization. Employed with the mediators of
spoken and written language, these core cognitive capacities become en-
hanced abilities that make a qualitative difference to the sorts of things
that children can do.16
If this is true of higher cognitive processes in general, then it is true
of the domain-speci¬c processes postulated by the new developmental
psychology. This suggests a natural direction in which to shift the focus
of research attention: In investigating the conceptual changes within a
given domain, or the emergence of new domains of thought in child-
hood, look outside of the head and consider how it modi¬es the child™s
“theory of X.” In emphasizing both the social and dynamic nature of
cognitive processing and its development, it should be clear how the
Vygotskyan perspective ascribes an integral role to the environment out-
side the individual. The external environment does not simply cause
changes in a child™s internal mental structures but in a literal sense comes

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