Social-Cultural Processes and Urban Affordances for Healthy and Sustainable Food Consumption

In this paper, we provide an overview of research highlighting the relation between cultural processes, social norms, and food choices, discussing the implication of these findings for the promotion of more sustainable lifestyles. Our aim is to outline how environmental psychological research on urban affordances, through the specific concepts of restorative environments and walkability, could complement these findings to better understand human health, wellbeing and quality of life. We highlight how social norms and cultural processes are linked to food choices, and we discuss the possible health-related outcomes of cultural differences in food practices as well as their relation to acculturation and globalization processes. We also discuss the concepts of restorative environments and walkability as positive urban affordances, their relation to human wellbeing, and the possible link with cultural processes and sustainable lifestyles. Finally, we outline issues for future research and areas for policy-making and interventions on the links between cultural processes, healthy and sustainable food consumption and urban affordances, for the pursuit of public health, wellbeing and environmental sustainability.


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Emergence of Shared Intentionality Is Coupled to the Advance of Cumulative Culture

There is evidence that the sharing of intentions was an important factor in the evolution of humans’ unique cognitive abilities. Here, for the first time, we formally model the coevolution of jointly intentional behavior and cumulative culture, showing that rapid techno-cultural advance goes hand in hand with the emergence of the ability to participate in jointly intentional behavior. Conversely, in the absence of opportunities for significant techno-cultural improvement, the ability to undertake jointly intentional behavior is selected against. Thus, we provide a unified mechanism for the suppression or emergence of shared intentions and collaborative behavior in humans, as well as a potential cause of inter-species diversity in the prevalence of such behavior.


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Biocultural Coevolution and the Enactive Origins of Human Musicality

Despite evolutionary musicology’s interdisciplinary nature, and the diverse methods it employs, the field has nevertheless tended to divide into two main positions. Some argue that music should be understood as a naturally selected adaptation, while others claim that music is a product of culture with little or no relevance for the survival of the species. We review these arguments, suggesting that while interesting and well-reasoned positions have been offered on both sides of the debate, the nature-or-culture (or adaptation vs. non-adaptation) assumptions that have traditionally driven the discussion have resulted in a problematic either/or dichotomy. We then consider an alternative “biocultural” proposal that appears to offer a way forward. As we discuss, this approach draws on a range of research in theoretical biology, archeology, neuroscience, embodied and ecological cognition, and dynamical systems theory (DST), positing a more integrated model that sees biological and cultural dimensions as aspects of the same evolving system. Following this, we outline the enactive approach to cognition, discussing the ways it aligns with the biocultural perspective. Put simply, the enactive approach posits a deep continuity between mind and life, where cognitive processes are explored in terms of how self-organizing living systems enact relationships with the environment that are relevant to their survival and well-being. It highlights the embodied and ecologically situated nature of living agents, as well as the active role they play in their own developmental processes. Importantly, the enactive approach sees cognitive and evolutionary processes as driven by a range of interacting factors, including the socio-cultural forms of activity that characterize the lives of more complex creatures such as ourselves. We offer some suggestions for how this approach might enhance and extend the biocultural model. To conclude we briefly consider the implications of this approach for practical areas such as music education.


Posted in Evolution, Music | Tagged ,

Cultural Affordances: Scaffolding Local Worlds Through Shared Intentionality and Regimes of Attention

In this paper we outline a framework for the study of the mechanisms involved in the engagement of human agents with cultural affordances. Our aim is to better understand how culture and context interact with human biology to shape human behavior, cognition, and experience. We attempt to integrate several related approaches in the study of the embodied, cognitive, and affective substrates of sociality and culture and the sociocultural scaffolding of experience. The integrative framework we propose bridges cognitive and social sciences to provide (i) an expanded concept of ‘affordance’ that extends to sociocultural forms of life, and (ii) a multilevel account of the socioculturally scaffolded forms of affordance learning and the transmission of affordances in patterned sociocultural practices and regimes of shared attention. This framework provides an account of how cultural content and normative practices are built on a foundation of contentless basic mental processes that acquire content through immersive participation of the agent in social practices that regulate joint attention and shared intentionality.


Posted in cultural affordances | Tagged

The Anthropology of the Fetus: Biology, Culture, and Society

As a biological, cultural, and social entity, the human fetus is a multifaceted subject which calls for equally diverse perspectives to fully understand. Anthropology of the Fetus seeks to achieve this by bringing together specialists in biological anthropology, archaeology, and cultural anthropology. Contributors draw on research in prehistoric, historic, and contemporary sites in Europe, Asia, North Africa, and North America to explore the biological and cultural phenomenon of the fetus, raising methodological and theoretical concerns with the ultimate goal of developing a holistic anthropology of the fetus.


Posted in Anthropology, Uncategorized | Tagged

Multiculturalism without Culture

Anne Phillips is a feminist theorist with some quite strong views (I previously read her book “Which Equalities Matter?”). In “Multiculturalism Without Culture”, she wrestles with a basic contradiction. On the one hand, “culture” matters. This is the central insight of multiculturalism: people’s views of themselves and their societies are filtered through culturally specific lenses, and to ignore this when making policy as to ignore people as they are. On the other hand, “culture” doesn’t even exist. No culture is internally homogeneous, and no person resides in only one culture. For example, a person can participate in British culture, university culture, gay culture, Muslim culture, Pakistani culture, and sports culture in a single day. To situate such a person in a single culture obscures more than it identifies. Her ideas on how to reconcile these two insights are very sophisticated, but mercifully jargon-free. She also draws primarily on legal examples so there are lots of vivid, real-life stories (and lots of nasty murders, too!) as she tries to build a “multiculturalism without culture.”


Posted in Culture, Multi-cultural, Women | Tagged , ,

Is multiculturalism bad for women?

Polygamy, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, punishing women for being raped, differential access for men and women to health care and education, unequal rights of ownership, assembly, and political participation, unequal vulnerability to violence. These practices and conditions are standard in some parts of the world. Do demands for multiculturalism–and certain minority group rights in particular–make them more likely to continue and to spread to liberal democracies? Are there fundamental conflicts between our commitment to gender equity and our increasing desire to respect the customs of minority cultures or religions? In this book, the eminent feminist Susan Moller Okin and fifteen of the world’s leading thinkers about feminism and multiculturalism explore these unsettling questions in a provocative, passionate, and illuminating debate.Okin opens by arguing that some group rights can, in fact, endanger women. She points, for example, to the French government’s giving thousands of male immigrants special permission to bring multiple wives into the country, despite French laws against polygamy and the wives’ own bitter opposition to the practice. Okin argues that if we agree that women should not be disadvantaged because of their sex, we should not accept group rights that permit oppressive practices on the grounds that they are fundamental to minority cultures whose existence may otherwise be threatened.In reply, some respondents reject Okin’s position outright, contending that her views are rooted in a moral universalism that is blind to cultural difference. Others quarrel with Okin’s focus on gender, or argue that we should be careful about which group rights we permit, but not reject the category of group rights altogether. Okin concludes with a rebuttal, clarifying, adjusting, and extending her original position. These incisive and accessible essays–expanded from their original publication in Boston Review and including four new contributions–are indispensable reading for anyone interested in one of the most contentious social and political issues today.


Posted in Multi-cultural, Women | Tagged ,

Improvisation and the self-organization of multiple musical bodies

Understanding everyday behavior relies heavily upon understanding our ability to improvise, how we are able to continuously anticipate and adapt in order to coordinate with our environment and others. Here we consider the ability of musicians to improvise, where they must spontaneously coordinate their actions with co-performers in order to produce novel musical expressions. Investigations of this behavior have traditionally focused on describing the organization of cognitive structures. The focus, here, however, is on the ability of the time-evolving patterns of inter-musician movement coordination as revealed by the mathematical tools of complex dynamical systems to provide a new understanding of what potentiates the novelty of spontaneous musical action. We demonstrate this approach through the application of cross wavelet spectral analysis, which isolates the strength and patterning of the behavioral coordination that occurs between improvising musicians across a range of nested time-scales. Revealing the sophistication of the previously unexplored dynamics of movement coordination between improvising musicians is an important step toward understanding how creative musical expressions emerge from the spontaneous coordination of multiple musical bodies.


Posted in Music, Self-organization | Tagged ,

Did social cognition evolve by cultural group selection?

Cognitive gadgets puts forward an ambitious claim: language, mindreading, and imitation evolved by cultural group selection. Defending this claim requires more than Heyes’ spirited and effective critique of nativist claims. The latest human “cognitive gadgets,” such as literacy, did not spread through cultural group selection. Why should social cognition be different? The book leaves this question pending. It also makes strong assumptions regarding cultural evolution: it is moved by selection rather than transformation; it relies on high-fidelity imitation; it requires specific cognitive adaptations to cultural learning. Each of these assumptions raises crucial yet unaddressed difficulties.


Posted in Cultural evolution, Social cognition | Tagged ,

The creative mind: cognition, society and culture

This article provides an overview of the main tendencies and ideas in the embodied mind paradigm in the expanding field of modern cognitive science. The focus is not on the biological and neurological aspects of cognitive science, rather the article demonstrates how basic concepts and theories from cognitive science have influenced linguistics, sociology, the understanding of art and creativity, film and film perception, as well as our understanding of historical film narratives and mediated memories. Although these areas of humanities and social science may seem unrelated, this article demonstrates how the embodied mind paradigm has actually forged links between separate scientific disciplines. Cognitive science and the embodied mind theory have created a stronger interdisciplinary connection between cognitive understanding in social science and humanities. Metaphors and image schema, the way our brain relies on narrative structures, the dynamic ability of the brain to blend old and new schemas, and the unparalleled creativity of the brain are all part of the approaches of the cognitive social science and humanities to social interaction, communication and creativity described here. The article also discusses the relationship between the more universal dimensions of the human mind and the question of cultural and social variations. The argument here is that a cognitive and more universal theory of human beings is not the same as determinism. On the contrary, when we understand our universal commonalities and the basic functions of our embodied mind we will also be better placed to understand cultural and social differences and variations.


Posted in Creative mind, Culture | Tagged ,