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Our Ways: Toolmaking and the Origins of Normative Cognition

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I argue that the guidance of action by norms is a central part of the cognitive architecture underlying skilled action in humans, including individual motor skill. From this starting point, I explore the connections between the evolution of normative guidance and the evolution of skill. I propose that the evolution of norm-guided skill was an important watershed in human evolution, and that the first norm-guided skills may have been standardized toolmaking techniques. The expansion of the normative domain beyond technique to encompass norms of reciprocity, ritual, kinship and fairness involved the elaboration of a basic platform for the guidance of skilled action by technical norms.

This talk is part of the Biological Anthropology Seminar Series series.

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