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01:185:253 Study Guide - Spring 2018, Comprehensive Midterm Notes - Evolution, Ethics, Cognitive Science


Department
Cognitive Science
Course Code
01:185:253
Professor
All
Study Guide
Midterm

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01:185:253
MIDTERM EXAM
STUDY GUIDE
Fall 2018

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Prof after class/ appointment
Human Nature and Diversity
- Which features/properties of people count as part of “human nature”?
Anatomical identical features b/w all people (heart, lungs, kidneys)
- Do all humans have these things?
No- abnormal diseases
- It’s more plausible to say that something is part of human nature if all NORMAL humans
have it
- What does “normal” mean here?
Sometimes normal means average/ordinary/ what’s true of most people- not what it means here
- b/c hypothetically, if there was a lung cancer epidemic, 80% of people would have a lung
removed, now it would not be the case that having one lung is part of human nature
- In human nature, “normal” can mean: normal features are those that people were
designed to have (we were designed to have 2 lungs)
- Who/ what did the designing? God? Natural selection- biological answer
Some versions of the claim that god did the designing are incompatible with contemporary
biology.
(There may be other versions of the “god did the designing” view that are not incompatible with
modern biology)
*Understanding how human nature and human diversity were shaped by natural
selection and by other factors, including cultural evolution*
A feature/property is part of human nature if and only if all NORMAL humans have that
feature- if people were designed to have it
Complication- some aspects of human nature are disjunctive (either male or female genitalia
and the associated organs) having one or the other.
- All normal humans have one of the options
- No normal person has both
Some examples of human diversity are also part of human nature- 2 biological sexes
There can be more than 2 options- eye color, blood type
- The anatomical differences between males and females are correlated with lots of other
differences ex. Sex organs correlate with chromosomes
Psychological, behavioral and social aspects of human nature/diversity
- Are there any psychological properties that are part of human nature?
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All normal humans can distinguish many colors; all normal humans speak one or more
syntactically complex languages- no other animal can do this
(all psychological features are ultimately grounded in biology)
- How about preferences? Are there preferences that are part of human nature?
Food choices, choosing a mate
- Are there any psychological, behavioral or social properties that are correlated with
genetic & anatomical sex differences?
,
- If there are, are these part of human nature? Are these differences the product of natural
selection? Or could they be explained by appeal to culture?
Part 1: Mating (= sex, love & parenting)
1.) What are the psychological, behavioral and social differences between men and
women?
2.) Are these differences part of human nature? Are they the product of natural selection…
or can they be explained by appeal to culture?
3.) What do these accounts of sex differences suggest about how you should interact with
people of the opposite sex?
Part 2: look at some aspects of human diversity that can’t be fully explained by appeal to
natural selection and human nature
Food preferences and survival skills are 2 examples of an enormously important and unique
component of human nature → Humans acquire knowledge, beliefs, skills, and preferences from
other members of our species- the process is called social learning
Eating insects/dogs- why do we think that eating insects is gross while most people in
Thailand think they are a great snack food? → Many of our food preferences are acquired from
our culture, i.e. from the people around us.
Why do Intuit people (in the arctic) know how to feed themselves in the arctic when none
of us do? → they’ve acquired this knowledge from other members of their culture
Social learning enabled humans to spread around the globe, build cities, develop technology
and create great works of art
More than anything else, social learning is what distinguishes us from other primates.
- Monkeys and other primates are very bad at imitating
- Humans are the great imitators (get info from others- college)
- Imitation is one important kind of social learning
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