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Conferences 2007 - A. Lammel

The construction of representations and cultural knowledge


Speaker: Annamaria Lammel

Date: 14 December 2006

The relationship between culture and cognition poses complex questions for which a possible approach attempts to systematically connect cognitive representations to diverse cultural knowledge. Cultural knowledge (including beliefs) are considered here to be realities external to the individual that are easily appropriated as "mentifacts" (Sorell Huxley, 1975). Cultural knowledge is dynamic, adaptive, interactive, normative and symbolic, open but "defensive," shared, integrated, and modified by members of a group made up of humans and identifiable as external by members of other groups.
We consider that the nature of cultural knowledge, as well as natural languages or other symbolic knowledge systems (Lock, 1991), will influence the way cognitive representations are constructed in individuals. Our results from studies conducted in diverse cultures show, on the one hand, that the connections in relationships between images, concepts, and rules can vary depending on available knowledge, while on the other hand, physical reality (which is in itself ecologically diverse) as well as the cultural knowledge built on this "reality" will determine the signs and the systems of signs and representations as well as their organization
(Lammel,1998, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006).
In agreement with the Taghart (1996) studies, we consider that human thought is by nature (inherently) social (and therefore cultural) and that the mind is a dynamic system as opposed to a computational system. By consequence, cultural knowledge, which is integrated and built upon mental representations, will be different depending on the context.
The results of our research allows us to distinguish two levels of processes that contribute in different ways to the construction of mental representations: 1) The functioning of purely internal (discontinuous) cognitive processes treat cultural knowledge objectively (memory storage, coding, etc.); 2) The dynamic and interactic functioning of cognitive processes, qhich takes into account the relationships between the subject and his environment, generates interactions with his emotions and his entire body (actions, developing of know-how) and activates symbolic aspects of the representations (Lammel, 2004, 2006).
These idease are supported in current research that attempts to connect the "biological" to the "cultural." The example of Donald (1999) confirms that the human brain can be re-configured by culture. Along with Dunbar (1996), he supports that culture plays a critical role in human cognition, which as Tomaselle (1999) said, thanks to culture has special power compared to the cognitions of other primates. The human species is genetically prediposed to create and evolve within symbolic cultures. Donald (1999) suggests reversing the common relationship between cognition and culture by affirming that culture directly affects cognition.
In our presentation, we present concrete examples based on our studies conducted among several populations, including: the Totonaques Indians in Mexico, Hungarian peasants, Canadian Inuits, Jewish farmers in "La Pampa," Argentina, as well as children and adolescents from Paris and its surrounding suburbs.


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Creation date : 15/11/2006 @ 09:28
Last update : 03/10/2007 @ 23:13
Category : Conferences 2007
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