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Better Than Conscious?Decision Making, the Human Mind, and Implications For Institutions$
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Christoph Engel and Wolf Singer

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780262195805

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262195805.001.0001

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The Evolution of Implicit and Explicit Decision Making

The Evolution of Implicit and Explicit Decision Making

(p.155) 7 The Evolution of Implicit and Explicit Decision Making
Better Than Conscious?

Robert Kurzban

The MIT Press

In the history of psychology, the relative attention paid to implicit versus explicit processes has fluctuated dramatically. Since the time of the structuralist school of thought, when the methodological commitment to introspection left little room for implicit processes, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction. The rise of cognitive science has seen a steady, even inexorable rise in the importance attached to implicit processes. Here it will be argued that, evolutionarily, implicit cognitive processes antedate explicit processes, which might be phylogenetically quite recent. Two questions are distinguished. First, why did explicit kinds of mechanisms evolve? The answer to this question is very difficult, and possibly intractable without a compelling theory of consciousness, which at this point seems to be at best debatable and at worst absent in psychological thinking. Second, why did the particular systems, which seem to be (or, perhaps, happen to be) explicit, evolve? In other words, what are the functions of particular explicit systems? The answer to this question directs attention to the possible functions of explicit systems. It is suggested that the answers to these questions might be found in the answers to questions about the functions of (natural) language, social learning, and strategic social interaction.

Keywords:   Strüngmann Forum Reports, decision making, explicit decision making, implicit decision making, language acquisition, social interaction, social learning

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