Event Sequencing as an Organizing Cultural Principle



Abstract One common cultural organizing principle is event sequencing. This article describes and illustrates two widespread examples of this kind of organization, cultural routines, and cultural templates. Cultural routines organize recurrent activities in time and space. Cultural templates rely on causally linked sequences of more abstract events to support reasoning and narrative. Why should so much of culture be organized thusly? My argument rests on evidence from childhood development and evolutionary history. Recognition of discrete events and their sequencing in routines occurs early in childhood. Although event sequencing is an ancestral trait in humans, it is the full-blown human capacity to understand how the events in such a sequence are causally linked, including intentionally linked, that finds its way into the organization of cultural templates. In taking advantage of event sequencing and causality, culture has piggybacked on human cognitive capacities. It follows that a full accounting of human culture requires recognition of the way both world and brain are organized.