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TTOM in action: Refining the variational approach to cognition and culture

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 May 2020

Samuel P. L. Veissière
Affiliation:
Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, CanadaH3A 1A1. samuel.veissiere@mcgill.camaxwell.ramstead@mcgill.calaurence.kirmayer@mcgill.ca Culture, Mind, and Brain Program, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, CanadaH3A 1A1 Department of Anthropology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, CanadaH3A 2T7
Axel Constant
Affiliation:
Culture, Mind, and Brain Program, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, CanadaH3A 1A1 Charles Perkins Centre, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia2006. axel.constant.pruvost@gmail.com Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging, University College London, London, WC1N 3AR, UK. k.friston@ucl.ac.uk
Maxwell J. D. Ramstead
Affiliation:
Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, CanadaH3A 1A1. samuel.veissiere@mcgill.camaxwell.ramstead@mcgill.calaurence.kirmayer@mcgill.ca Culture, Mind, and Brain Program, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, CanadaH3A 1A1 Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging, University College London, London, WC1N 3AR, UK. k.friston@ucl.ac.uk
Karl J. Friston
Affiliation:
Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging, University College London, London, WC1N 3AR, UK. k.friston@ucl.ac.uk
Laurence J. Kirmayer
Affiliation:
Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, CanadaH3A 1A1. samuel.veissiere@mcgill.camaxwell.ramstead@mcgill.calaurence.kirmayer@mcgill.ca Culture, Mind, and Brain Program, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, CanadaH3A 1A1 Department of Anthropology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, CanadaH3A 2T7

Abstract

The target article “Thinking Through Other Minds” (TTOM) offered an account of the distinctively human capacity to acquire cultural knowledge, norms, and practices. To this end, we leveraged recent ideas from theoretical neurobiology to understand the human mind in social and cultural contexts. Our aim was both synthetic – building an integrative model adequate to account for key features of cultural learning and adaptation; and prescriptive – showing how the tools developed to explain brain dynamics can be applied to the emergence of social and cultural ecologies of mind. In this reply to commentators, we address key issues, including: (1) refining the concept of culture to show how TTOM and the free-energy principle (FEP) can capture essential elements of human adaptation and functioning; (2) addressing cognition as an embodied, enactive, affective process involving cultural affordances; (3) clarifying the significance of the FEP formalism related to entropy minimization, Bayesian inference, Markov blankets, and enactivist views; (4) developing empirical tests and applications of the TTOM model; (5) incorporating cultural diversity and context at the level of intra-cultural variation, individual differences, and the transition to digital niches; and (6) considering some implications for psychiatry. The commentators’ critiques and suggestions point to useful refinements and applications of the model. In ongoing collaborations, we are exploring how to augment the theory with affective valence, take into account individual differences and historicity, and apply the model to specific domains including epistemic bias.

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Authors' Response
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

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