You are here: Home Publications Cognitive cladistics and cultural override in Hominid spatial cognition

Cognitive cladistics and cultural override in Hominid spatial cognition

Haun, D. B. M., Rapold, C. J., Call, J., Janzen, G., & Levinson, S. C. (2006). Cognitive cladistics and cultural override in Hominid spatial cognition. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 103(46), 17568-17573. doi:10.1073/pnas.0607999103.
Current approaches to human cognition often take a strong nativist stance based on Western adult performance, backed up where possible by neonate and infant research and almost never by comparative research across the Hominidae. Recent research suggests considerable cross-cultural differences in cognitive strategies, including relational thinking, a domain where infant research is impossible because of lack of cognitive maturation. Here, we apply the same paradigm across children and adults of different cultures and across all nonhuman great ape genera. We find that both child and adult spatial cognition systematically varies with language and culture but that, nevertheless, there is a clear inherited bias for one spatial strategy in the great apes. It is reasonable to conclude, we argue, that language and culture mask the native tendencies in our species. This cladistic approach suggests that the correct perspective on human cognition is neither nativist uniformitarian nor ‘‘blank slate’’ but recognizes the powerful impact that language and culture can have on our shared primate cognitive biases.
About MPI

This is the MPI

The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.


Street address
Wundtlaan 1
6525 XD Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Mailing address
P.O. Box 310
6500 AH Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Phone:   +31-24-3521911
Fax:        +31-24-3521213

Public Outreach Officer
Charlotte Horn