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Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 1997;1(4):276-98.

The evolution of truly social cognition: the core configurations model.

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Department of Science and Technology Studies, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180, USA.


This article introduces a vocabulary suitable for evolutionary analyses in the human cognitive, social, and behavioral sciences. The vocabulary carves a middle way between advocates and critics of evolutionary perspectives by substituting the concept of repeated assembly for nature-nurture dualism. A model of core configurations-based on human morphology and ecology in human evolutionary history-is presented, and I argue that these configurations of face-to-face groups are the selective context for uniquely human mental systems. Hence, human cognition is "truly social,"" specialized for group living. The relevance of the core configuration model is illustrated with respect to two areas of interest to social psychologists: the self and social identity, and distributed cognition and shared reality. A final section illustrates the integrative power of the core configuration model with a brief comparison of the social and cognitive tasks faced by scientists and foragers.

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