Poirier, P., Faucher, L. A New Hope: A better ICM to understand human cognitive architectural variability. Synthese (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-020-02739-4


How can we best understand human cognitive architectural variability? We believe that the relationships between theories in neurobiology, cognitive science and evolutionary biology posited by evolutionary psychology’s Integrated Causal Model (ICM) has unduly supported various essentialist conceptions of the human cognitive architecture, monomorphic minds (to use Griffiths’ apt phrase), that mask HCA variability, and we propose a different set of relationships between theories in the same domains to support a different, non-essentialist, understanding of HCA variability. To set our case against essentialist theories of HCA variability, we detail the general notion of an ICM and the specific ICM at the heart of evolutionary psychology. We briefly illustrate the type of essentialism fostered by evolutionary psychology’s ICM by showing how it grounds essentialist theories of cognitive gender. We shall not criticize these theories here since the literature is replete with compelling objections to them, but shall instead focus on motivating a replacement ICM to destabilize evolutionary psychology’s ICM wholesale. ICMs usually span larger than the models they support, hence larger than arguments against these models, and one reason the essentialist theories addressed here have the kind of staying power they do is that they are partly supported by the ICM in which they are grounded. In short, we offer “A New Hope” against the essentialist empire. True to the Hollywood trope, this new hope rests on an alliance between a young theory, cognitive network neuroscience, and two older, but still quite young, epistemic rebels: enactive cognitive science and developmental systems theory. Accordingly, we detail and discuss the proposed emerging ICM and test-drive it by sketching the multimorphic view of gender it grounds.