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Embodied niche construction in the hominin lineage: semiotic structure and sustained attention in human embodied cognition.

Stutz AJ - Front Psychol (2014)

Bottom Line: Thus, private cognitive signs would be defined, not only by their learned and perceived extrasomatic referents, but also by their associations to iconically represented somatic states.This evolutionary modification of animal associative learning is suggested to be adaptive in ecological niches occupied by long-lived, large-bodied ape species, facilitating memory construction and recall in highly varied foraging and social contexts, while sustaining selective attention during goal-directed behavioral sequences.The embodied niche construction (ENC) hypothesis of human evolution posits that in the early hominin lineage, natural selection further modified the ancestral ape semiotic adaptations, favoring the recursive structuration of concise iconic narratives of embodied interaction with the environment.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Division of History and Social Sciences, Oxford College of Emory University Oxford, GA, USA ; Department of Anthropology, Emory University Atlanta, GA, USA.

ABSTRACT
Human evolution unfolded through a rather distinctive, dynamically constructed ecological niche. The human niche is not only generally terrestrial in habitat, while being flexibly and extensively heterotrophic in food-web connections. It is also defined by semiotically structured and structuring embodied cognitive interfaces, connecting the individual organism with the wider environment. The embodied dimensions of niche-population co-evolution have long involved semiotic system construction, which I hypothesize to be an evolutionarily primitive aspect of learning and higher-level cognitive integration and attention in the great apes and humans alike. A clearly pre-linguistic form of semiotic cognitive structuration is suggested to involve recursively learned and constructed object icons. Higher-level cognitive iconic representation of visually, auditorily, or haptically perceived extrasomatic objects would be learned and evoked through indexical connections to proprioceptive and affective somatic states. Thus, private cognitive signs would be defined, not only by their learned and perceived extrasomatic referents, but also by their associations to iconically represented somatic states. This evolutionary modification of animal associative learning is suggested to be adaptive in ecological niches occupied by long-lived, large-bodied ape species, facilitating memory construction and recall in highly varied foraging and social contexts, while sustaining selective attention during goal-directed behavioral sequences. The embodied niche construction (ENC) hypothesis of human evolution posits that in the early hominin lineage, natural selection further modified the ancestral ape semiotic adaptations, favoring the recursive structuration of concise iconic narratives of embodied interaction with the environment.

No MeSH data available.


Logarithmic plot of the general population-time-scale structure of embodied cognition and niche construction in human biocultural evolution.
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Figure 2: Logarithmic plot of the general population-time-scale structure of embodied cognition and niche construction in human biocultural evolution.

Mentions: With a distinctively anthropological point of departure, the ENC hypothesis can further, more comprehensively guide cognitive science research out of the laboratory, into the wide-open, culturally structured and structuring wild of human cognition (cf. Hutchins, 1996). As Figure 2 schematically illustrates, hominin ENC is proposed to involve non-nested hierarchical system feedbacks from individual, temporally continuous embodied cognition and interaction (lower left) to a metapopulation constituting a cultural environment with elements persisting over millennial timescales (e.g., language structures, technological traditions, and culturally modified landscapes). Ritualized (and ritualizing) cultural environments pervasively structure embodied experience and action. Examples are widely ethnographically and even archaeologically documented. Consider, for instance, how diverse communities handle death's dual crisis—involving both social loss and the emergence of an abject cadaver (Nilsson Stutz, 2003). The cross-cultural diversity in—and patterns of long-term prehistoric and historic change through—mortuary ritual dramatically highlights how human societies construct and practically manage life passages or crises (Nilsson Stutz, 2003). Everyday ritualized handling of embodied experience can also be powerfully transformative, including social interpretation of individual dream experiences—and representations of those experiences (Kracke, 2007). Such qualitative and cross-cultural comparative data support explaining how embodied perceptual representations and concepts could shape and sustain what Dove (2011) has called “dis-embodied” abstract concepts, which emerge from embodied interaction and experience. Abstract but socially useful concepts like being, death, hierarchy, identity, comparison, duty, purity, pollution, and sacred do tend to get materially grounded in embodied social techniques—through dramatic rituals, detailed myths, and production and interaction with artistic objects (Gell, 1998; Nilsson Stutz, 2003). At the same time, these very practices also produce unimaginably rich material for cognitively constructing associations (cf. Clark, 2008; Heyes, 2010a,b, 2012).


Embodied niche construction in the hominin lineage: semiotic structure and sustained attention in human embodied cognition.

Stutz AJ - Front Psychol (2014)

Logarithmic plot of the general population-time-scale structure of embodied cognition and niche construction in human biocultural evolution.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4117988&req=5

Figure 2: Logarithmic plot of the general population-time-scale structure of embodied cognition and niche construction in human biocultural evolution.
Mentions: With a distinctively anthropological point of departure, the ENC hypothesis can further, more comprehensively guide cognitive science research out of the laboratory, into the wide-open, culturally structured and structuring wild of human cognition (cf. Hutchins, 1996). As Figure 2 schematically illustrates, hominin ENC is proposed to involve non-nested hierarchical system feedbacks from individual, temporally continuous embodied cognition and interaction (lower left) to a metapopulation constituting a cultural environment with elements persisting over millennial timescales (e.g., language structures, technological traditions, and culturally modified landscapes). Ritualized (and ritualizing) cultural environments pervasively structure embodied experience and action. Examples are widely ethnographically and even archaeologically documented. Consider, for instance, how diverse communities handle death's dual crisis—involving both social loss and the emergence of an abject cadaver (Nilsson Stutz, 2003). The cross-cultural diversity in—and patterns of long-term prehistoric and historic change through—mortuary ritual dramatically highlights how human societies construct and practically manage life passages or crises (Nilsson Stutz, 2003). Everyday ritualized handling of embodied experience can also be powerfully transformative, including social interpretation of individual dream experiences—and representations of those experiences (Kracke, 2007). Such qualitative and cross-cultural comparative data support explaining how embodied perceptual representations and concepts could shape and sustain what Dove (2011) has called “dis-embodied” abstract concepts, which emerge from embodied interaction and experience. Abstract but socially useful concepts like being, death, hierarchy, identity, comparison, duty, purity, pollution, and sacred do tend to get materially grounded in embodied social techniques—through dramatic rituals, detailed myths, and production and interaction with artistic objects (Gell, 1998; Nilsson Stutz, 2003). At the same time, these very practices also produce unimaginably rich material for cognitively constructing associations (cf. Clark, 2008; Heyes, 2010a,b, 2012).

Bottom Line: Thus, private cognitive signs would be defined, not only by their learned and perceived extrasomatic referents, but also by their associations to iconically represented somatic states.This evolutionary modification of animal associative learning is suggested to be adaptive in ecological niches occupied by long-lived, large-bodied ape species, facilitating memory construction and recall in highly varied foraging and social contexts, while sustaining selective attention during goal-directed behavioral sequences.The embodied niche construction (ENC) hypothesis of human evolution posits that in the early hominin lineage, natural selection further modified the ancestral ape semiotic adaptations, favoring the recursive structuration of concise iconic narratives of embodied interaction with the environment.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Division of History and Social Sciences, Oxford College of Emory University Oxford, GA, USA ; Department of Anthropology, Emory University Atlanta, GA, USA.

ABSTRACT
Human evolution unfolded through a rather distinctive, dynamically constructed ecological niche. The human niche is not only generally terrestrial in habitat, while being flexibly and extensively heterotrophic in food-web connections. It is also defined by semiotically structured and structuring embodied cognitive interfaces, connecting the individual organism with the wider environment. The embodied dimensions of niche-population co-evolution have long involved semiotic system construction, which I hypothesize to be an evolutionarily primitive aspect of learning and higher-level cognitive integration and attention in the great apes and humans alike. A clearly pre-linguistic form of semiotic cognitive structuration is suggested to involve recursively learned and constructed object icons. Higher-level cognitive iconic representation of visually, auditorily, or haptically perceived extrasomatic objects would be learned and evoked through indexical connections to proprioceptive and affective somatic states. Thus, private cognitive signs would be defined, not only by their learned and perceived extrasomatic referents, but also by their associations to iconically represented somatic states. This evolutionary modification of animal associative learning is suggested to be adaptive in ecological niches occupied by long-lived, large-bodied ape species, facilitating memory construction and recall in highly varied foraging and social contexts, while sustaining selective attention during goal-directed behavioral sequences. The embodied niche construction (ENC) hypothesis of human evolution posits that in the early hominin lineage, natural selection further modified the ancestral ape semiotic adaptations, favoring the recursive structuration of concise iconic narratives of embodied interaction with the environment.

No MeSH data available.