M. Lombard, P. Gärdenfors
Feb 11, 2021
It is widely thought that causal cognition underpins technical reasoning. Here we suggest that understanding causal cognition as a thinking system that includes theory of mind (i.e., social cognition) can be a productive theoretical tool for the field of evolutionary cognitive archaeology. With this contribution, we expand on an earlier model that distinguishes seven grades of causal cognition, explicitly presenting it together with a new analysis of the theory of mind involved in the different grades. We then suggest how such thinking may manifest in the archaeological or stone tool record and techno-behaviors of the last three million years or so. Our thesis is threefold: (a) theory of mind is an integral element of causal cognition; (b) generally speaking, the more advanced causal cognition is, the more it is dependent on theory of mind; and (c) the evolution of causal cognition depends more and more on mental representations of hidden variables. Ultimately, the final or seventh grade of causal cognition allows us to reason from a network of hidden variables that, amongst other things, enables the learning, manufacture, and use of complex technological systems. It also facilitates the seamless mapping of knowledge between personal (egocentric), physical, and social networks that allows for newly devised and innovative technical and social outcomes.