"The evolutionary, developmental, and cultural origins of human thought"
The human conceptual repertoire and knowledge base are unmatched phenomena in the animal world: Humans are the only species that have a system of formal mathematics, complex human language, an entire branch of philosophy dedicated to logic, and the ability to explicitly investigate both our own thinking and that of others. Understanding how we build these capacities has been at the core of debates in cognitive science and requires understanding their evolutionary, ontological, and cultural origins. The goal of my research program is to determine what aspects of our cognition are unique to humans or not, how human capacities develop, and how they interact with our human culture. I focus on four domains in which humans have remarkable abilities: numerical cognition, representation of recursive structure, metacognition, and logical reasoning. Throughout these case studies, I show that many of the foundations for these capacities are present in non-human animals and are likely evolutionarily ancient. However, both human development and our cultural environment continue to shape these primitive foundations into our uniquely human abilities.