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Gonzalez Cabrera Ivan | Writing-Up Fellow
2016-01-15 - 2016-07-14 | Research area: Cognition and Sociality
Towards a Comprehensive Theory of Normative Cognition

The topic of my Ph.D. thesis is the evolution of normative cognition. More specifically, I am interested in evolution, development, and cognitive architecture behind our distinctive capacity for normative guidance, and how traditional debates in moral philosophy can be advanced and transformed by theories and findings in empirical sciences such as evolutionary and developmental biology, comparative and developmental psychology, cognitive science, and social neuroscience. Broadly construed, normative guidance refers to our distinctive capacity to grasp norms and to make normative judgments (see Gibbard, 1990; Kitcher, 2011; Sripada & Stich, 2007). This includes the development and understanding of moral emotions such as shame and guilt, the emergence of skills of joint intentionality, the nature of empathy and sympathy, as well as other mechanisms that support pro-social behaviour and the enforcement of social norms. My thesis is divided into three main parts. In the first part, building mainly on the work of Sterelny (2003, 2010), Kitcher (2011), Boehm (1999, 2012), I address questions concerning the evolution of normative guidance. In the second part, following the work of Tomasello and colleagues (Tomasello, Melis, Tennie, Wyman, & Herrmann, 2012; Tomasello & Vaish, 2013; Vaish & Tomasello, 2013), I focus on issues around the ontogeny of this capacity. In the third part, I tackle questions related to the cognitive architecture of normative cognition by framing them within a hierarchical view of human cognition akin to dual process frameworks of moral psychology (Greene, 2008; Greene, Morelli, Lowenberg, Nvstrom, & Cohen, 2008; Greene, Nystrom, Engell, Darley, & Cohen, 2004; Greene, Sommerville, Nystrom, Darley, & Cohen, 2001; Mallon & Nichols, 2011; Sripada & Stich, 2007), but not restricted to them (Daw, Gershman, Seymour, Dayan, & Dolan, 2011; Doll, Jacobs, Sanfey, & Frank, 2009; Fermin, Yoshida, Ito, Yoshimoto, & Doya, 2010; Gershman, Markman, & Otto, 2014; Glascher, Daw, Dayan, & O'Doherty, 2010; Otto, Gershman, Markman, & Daw, 2013; Simon & Daw, 2011; Wunderlich, Dayan, et al., 2012; Wunderlich, Smittenaar, & Dolan, 2012).