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of the social manifestation thesis, pushing us instead toward a view of
it as positing psychological states that are socially constituted and so ex-
ternalist in nature. This would make the thesis suitable for offering a
general characterization of the externalist view of psychology, which de-
picts cognitive processes as themselves intrinsically social in nature. In
Chapter 8, I introduced such a view of memory, cognitive development,
and folk psychology as a way of providing a more concrete idea of how
integrative synthesis should proceed in the psychological case. There I
was chie¬‚y concerned to show how to generalize the wide computational
approach that I defended as a view of computational cognitive science
to noncomputational approaches within psychology, and to indicate the
sorts of questions and issues that arise on the resulting, externalist view
of psychological inquiry.
This interpretation of the social manifestation thesis thus provides
a middle ground between an individualistic psychology and the group
mind hypothesis. In contrast to individualism, the externalist psychology
demarcated by the social manifestation thesis views psychological states as
both taxonomically and locationally embedded in broader social systems.
In contrast to the group mind hypothesis, it does not ascribe psychologi-
cal states themselves to entities, such as the group, the community, or the
nation, larger than the individual and to which the individual belongs. On
this view, while the individual is not a boundary for psychological theoriz-
ing, psychology does posit individual-level, rather than group-level, traits.
We can put this the other way around. Socially manifested psychological
traits are properties of individuals, but since they occur only in certain
group environments, they cannot be understood in purely individualistic
terms.
I like to think that this is just what recent advocates of group mind
thinking, such as Mary Douglas and David Sloan Wilson, have themselves
had in mind. If so, then the externalism about the mind articulated in
Cognitive Metaphor in Biology and Social Science
302

Parts Two and Three provides a framework for further explorations of
the phenomena to which they have called attention.


6 the cognitive and the social
The evolutionary and cultural conditions that give rise to psychologi-
cal states have been recognized in a number of approaches to cognition,
such as evolutionary psychology and explorations of social intelligence in
the framework of the Machiavellian hypothesis. The social manifestation
thesis suggests, however, that cognition and sociality are more intimately
connected than even these research programs allow. For example, re-
search on the Machiavellian hypothesis has been focused on the role of
social complexity in producing mental complexity in the individual. It
is largely devoted to exploring the forms that both types of complexity
take and the relations between them. But if cognition itself is social, as
the social manifestation thesis implies, not simply a product of the social,
there will be a deeper connection between forms of (say) group living
and intelligence. Research programs that attempt to isolate and then ex-
plain individualistic modules for intelligent cognitive performance will
not go far enough in articulating the social and cultural dimensions to
cognition.16
The social manifestation thesis should also lead us to rethink some of
our ways of thinking about the “levels” at which selection operates. For
example, it has been common within debates over the agents of selection
to contrast individual-bene¬ting traits that evolve by individual selection
with group-bene¬ting traits that evolve by group selection. Furthermore,
at least in the hands of those who think that the “sel¬sh gene” is the unit
of selection, the latter has been discounted altogether. But this putative
dichotomy becomes less compellingly exhaustive once we consider traits,
including psychological traits, which bene¬t individuals because those
individuals are members of groups of a certain type. In this sort of case,
individual-level and group-level traits are intrinsically woven together, and
natural selection is not suf¬ciently ¬ne-grained to distinguish between
properties that, despite being distinct, are reliably coinstantiated and
homeostatically reinforcing.17
Concentration on the social manifestation thesis in an evolutionary
context thus may direct us to think about ways in which individual and
group selection can be mutually reinforcing processes, rather than con-
ceived of primarily as forces that are opposed in evolutionary change. An
important species of case in which they work in the same direction is one
The Group Mind Hypothesis 303

in which socially manifested traits are selected at the level of the individ-
ual, while group-level traits, whether psychological or nonpsychological,
are selected at the level of the group. This would be a sort of coevolution-
ary process in which there is a mutually reinforcing causal loop between
socially manifested psychological traits and group-level traits. This pos-
sibility suggests that, although the social manifestation thesis and the
group mind hypothesis are distinct views, they may be most interestingly
defended together.


7 from group minds to group selection
I have mentioned that David Sloan Wilson™s views of group minds are
tied to his defense of group selection. I want to conclude the substantive
part of this chapter by arguing that it is unlikely that there is any easy
argumentative ¬‚ow between claims about the kinds of minds there are
and the types of selective processes that operate in nature.
There are two basic reasons for this. First, the level at which selec-
tion operates and the level at which its products, adaptations, are char-
acterized are not as tightly connected as has typically been supposed. In
particular, selection could take place at the group level but produce adap-
tations at the individual level. Thus, arguing from the existence of group
selection on cognitive traits does not imply the group selection of group
minds. Conversely, pointing to group-level cognitive adaptations does not
entail that these arose through a process of group selection. Group selec-
tion even on groups of minimally minded individuals doesn™t itself make
minimally minded groups of individuals any more plausible than it does
groups of minimally minded individuals with certain dispositions and
abilities. Second, the failure to distinguish the group minds hypothesis
from the social manifestation thesis, and the resulting missing discussion
of the relationship between the two, represents a crucial hiatus in arguing
from group selection to group minds.
This pair of points, and the complexities and possibilities they intro-
duce, can be seen in Wilson™s discussion of group minds. Wilson recog-
nizes both individual- and group-level traits as possible outcomes of a
process of group selection, a view implicit in the claim that altruism, an
individual-level trait, could evolve by group selection. He argues that if
group selection were the sole selective force shaping the psychological
features of individuals and groups, then we would expect to ¬nd individ-
uals whose decisions bene¬t the group (for example, altruism), and/or
adaptive group decision making (for example, honey bee foraging). To
Cognitive Metaphor in Biology and Social Science
304

put it slightly differently, group selection might lead either to individuals
whose nature would support the social manifestation thesis or to group
minds (or even both). But since Wilson doesn™t explicitly distinguish the
social manifestation thesis from the group mind hypothesis, he fails to
consider the idea that traits of individuals that would support the former,
at least when produced by group selection, sometimes or always lead to
traits of groups that exemplify the latter. That is, missing here is any discus-
sion of the relationship between socially manifested individual traits and
the group-level cognitive adaptations. When Wilson does turn to discuss
the factors that regulate group decision processes, these turn out to be
nonpsychological characteristics of groups (for example, social organiza-
tion, leader control) that could simply be construed as effecting whether
and how certain individual-level characteristics are manifested.18
A corresponding problem arises in Wilson™s sketch of what one would
expect to ¬nd if individual selection were the sole process acting on
individuals. He says,
If group selection can truly be ignored as a factor in human evolution, we should
expect individuals to be highly adaptive as autonomous decision-making units,
capable of performing the full range of activities from framing the problem, to
generating alternatives, to evaluating the alternatives, to making ¬nal decisions.
When individuals exist as members of groups, we should expect them to use
others as sources of information, but only in ways that increase the individual™s
relative ¬tness within the group.19

Here Wilson rests on the assumption that selection at a given level “ in
this case, that of the individual “ will produce certain traits at that level.
But suppose that the social manifestation thesis is true: Certain psycho-
logical properties are manifest only when individuals form a group of a
certain type. And suppose that these evolve through a process of indi-
vidual selection. Must such traits promote autonomous decision making?
One reason to think not is that what kinds of trait evolve in such a case will
depend largely on the structure and internal dynamics of the group itself.
For example, if the group is one in which autonomous decision making
is punished, and shared, partial, and contributory decision making pro-
moted, then it is more likely that these will be the socially manifested
psychological traits that evolve, even if there is only individual selection.
Thus, Wilson™s claim above linking selection at a level with a certain kind
of agency is mistaken.
Moreover, one could envision these social structures as diminishing the
completeness and autonomy of individual decision making so radically
that full decision making appears as a group-only trait. If this happened,
The Group Mind Hypothesis 305

then we would have a group mind (with respect to decision making)
evolving through a process of individual selection. Wilson and Sober™s
own discussion of the Hutterites, a religious sect that has lived in rela-
tively small communities in North America for almost two hundred years,
prominent in Wilson and Sober™s in¬‚uential Behavioral and Brain Sciences
paper, suggests to me something like this interpretation, whereby a pro-
cess of within-group selection shifts the balance of decision making from
individual to group. The more general point here is that taking the social
manifestation thesis seriously complicates any argument from the char-
acter of natural selection to the character of the minds it produces.20
Two ¬nal complications concerning the relationship between group
selection and group minds seem worth mentioning. First, there are very
few, if any, established hypotheses about which individual-level psycho-
logical processes and abilities are the product of evolution by natural
selection. Part of the problem here is the lack of consensus about how
to characterize human and animal minds in the ¬rst place. In addition,
there are doubts about each of the following: whether any of the processes
and abilities so characterized are plausibly viewed as cognitive adaptations
(versus by-products of other adaptations) at all; supposing that some are,
about which these are; and supposing that some particular process or
ability evolved, how it is to be characterized.
To take a classic example, there is a lively debate over whether social
reasoning constitutes a well-de¬ned psychological unit “ something like a
module “ or whether the appropriate unit is better construed as a general-
purpose reasoning module that can be applied to the social domain, or
as a pragmatic reasoning module, or in some other way altogether. The
same seems to me true of most postulated psychological units “ including
memory, language, and emotion. This is not to express skepticism about
whether there are cognitive adaptations, but to report a view of the state
of our knowledge here, despite (or perhaps because of) recent work that
makes some progress here.21
Second, there is the general issue of the role of cultural selection in
producing minds like ours and those of our recent ancestors. I have else-
where followed Elliott Sober in viewing cultural selection as a family of
views, each of which extends or generalizes one or more of the three
conditions typically considered necessary for natural selection to occur:
phenotypic variation, related ¬tness variation, and heritability. We may
simply extend the concept of a phenotype to include cultural traits; in
addition, we may consider ¬tness to have something more than a strictly
reproductive dimension; and ¬nally, we may conceptualize heritability as
Cognitive Metaphor in Biology and Social Science
306

cultural in nature. The members of this family of views constitute views
of cultural selection that increasingly depart from traditional natural
selection.22
My hunch is that these forms of cultural selection, particularly those
that involve more rather than less departure from traditional natural
selection, are likely to have been instrumental in shaping up the kinds
of minds that we beasts have. Given the demonstrated effectiveness of
cultural group selection in shaping at least some behaviors, cultural se-
lection needs to be factored in at both the individual and the group level.
If that is right, then our exploration of the relationship between group
selection and group minds must include these cultural varieties of natural
selection.23


8 groups, minds, and individuals
I began the previous chapter by saying that I would seriously consider
the idea that groups can have minds. While I have not argued that idea
is mistaken, I have suggested that much of what proponents of the group
mind hypothesis want to say about the mind can be expressed within the
parameters of the externalist view of the mind that I have developed in
Parts Two and Three. This involves reconceptualizing where the mind
begins and ends, in ways that both build on but also depart from our
sciences of the mind. But it does not require that we replace the individual
as the locus of cognition, as the subject of mental states, with some larger
unit, such as the group.
This de¬‚ationary view of appeals to group minds in the biological and
social sciences has been developed within a framework that both pro-
vides some constructive tools for thinking about group minds, as well as
a few conjectures, guesses, and hunches about where some of the com-
plexities to thinking about the relationships between groups, minds, and
individuals lie. I have argued that we should approach the question of
whether cognition is a group-level trait in any particular case by identi-
fying the focal processes or abilities, and so to some extent forego the
more exciting-sounding question of whether “group minds” or “group
consciousness” really exist. In the last few sections I have voiced a suspi-
cion about general appeals “ to the level at which selection occurs, or to
the kinds of characteristics that we ¬nd in individuals “ as the basis for
defending the group mind hypothesis. But this, together with the over-
all de¬‚ationary message of Part Four, should not be taken to imply my
skepticism about whether group minds exist.
The Group Mind Hypothesis 307

There can be no group-level focal cognitive processes and abilities
without the activities of individuals, and in at least some cases those in-
dividuals are cognitive agents, agents with minds. In articulating a view
of the mind, however, in which the social embeddedness of the individ-
ual makes a crucial difference to the kind of mind that that individual
has, I hope to have arrested the thought that the dependence relations
here ¬‚ow simply from “higher levels” (the group, the social) to “lower
levels” (the individual, the cognitive). The minds that individuals have
are already the minds of individuals in groups.
Notes




1: The Individual and the Mind
1. Richard Dawkins, The Sel¬sh Gene (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2nd edi-
tion, 1989), originally published in 1976; and The Extended Phenotype (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1982). See also Elisabeth Lloyd, “Units and Levels
of Selection: An Anatomy of the Units of Selection Debates” in R.S. Singh,
C.B. Krimbos, D.B. Paul, and J. Beatty (editors), Thinking About Evolution: His-
torical, Philosophical & Political Perspectives. (New York: Cambridge University
Press, 2001), for general discussion.
2. On higher-level selection, see Stephen Jay Gould, The Structure of Evolu-
tionary Theory (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002), especially

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