Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Cognitive Science of Technology

D. Stout
Trends in Cognitive Sciences
Available online 4 August 2021


Technology is central to human life but hard to define and study. This review synthesizes advances in fields from anthropology to evolutionary biology and neuroscience to propose an interdisciplinary cognitive science of technology. The foundation of this effort is an evolutionarily motivated definition of technology that highlights three key features: material production, social collaboration, and cultural reproduction. This broad scope respects the complexity of the subject but poses a challenge for theoretical unification. Addressing this challenge requires a comparative approach to reduce the diversity of real-world technological cognition to a smaller number of recurring processes and relationships. To this end, a synthetic perceptual-motor hypothesis (PMH) for the evolutionary–developmental–cultural construction of technological cognition is advanced as an initial target for investigation.

  • Evolutionary theory and paleoanthropological/archaeological evidence motivate a theoretical definition of technology as socially reproduced and elaborated behavior involving the manipulation and modification of objects to enact changes in the physical environment.
  • This definition helps to resolve or obviate ongoing controversies in the anthropological, neuroscientific, and psychological literature relevant to technology.
  • A review of evidence from across these disciplines reveals that real-world technologies are diverse in detail but unified by the underlying demands and dynamics of material production. This creates opportunities for meaningful synthesis using a comparative method.
  • A ‘perceptual‐motor hypothesis’ proposes that technological cognition is constructed on biocultural evolutionary and developmental time scales from ancient primate systems for sensorimotor prediction and control.