This paper discusses the role of cultural anthropology in Cognitive Science. Culture is described as a very large pool of information passed along from generation to generation, composed of learned “programs” for action and understanding. These cultural programs differ in important ways from computer programs. Cultural programs tend to be unspecified and in explicit rather than clearly stated algorithms learned through a slow process of guided discovery, and involve the manipulation of content based rather than formal symbol systems. Cultural symbol systems often have affective as well as objective referents, giving them a strong directive effect. The argument is made that in the process of repeated social transmission and use, cultural programs come to take forms which have a good “fit” to the natural capacities and constraints of the human information processing system.
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