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Developing Scaffolds in Evolution, Culture, and Cognition$
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Linnda R. Caporael, James R. Griesemer, and William C. Wimsatt

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780262019552

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262019552.001.0001

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Symbols as Scaffolding

Symbols as Scaffolding

(p.231) 10 Symbols as Scaffolding
Developing Scaffolds in Evolution, Culture, and Cognition

Colin Allen

The MIT Press

Symbols are generatively entrenched elements in human culture that scaffold the individual and cultural development of language, mathematics, science, poetry, music, and so forth. The exact means by which they do so remains unclear, however. This chapter describes experiments suggesting that fundamental aspects of perception and learning are operating within an environment of culturally shaped and individually perceived symbolic structures. The manner in which basic perceptual and learning processes are brought to bear on received symbol structures scaffolds the development of more sophisticated and subtle forms of symbol perception, reasoning, and cognition. A forensic approach and comparative approach involving human and nonhuman subjects can help to tease out relationships among biology, culture, and development, and uncover traces of learning histories that may not be immediately apparent when adult performance is the starting point for investigation.

Keywords:   symbols, cognitive development, learning, perception, algebra, arithmetic, music, animal cognition

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