Beyond Core Knowledge: Natural Geometry
Article first published online: 14 JUN 2010
Copyright © 2010 Cognitive Science Society, Inc.
Special Issue: 2009 Rumelhart Prize Special Issue Honoring Susan Carey
Volume 34, Issue 5, pages 863–884, July 2010
How to Cite
Spelke, E., Lee, S. A. and Izard, V. (2010), Beyond Core Knowledge: Natural Geometry. Cognitive Science, 34: 863–884. doi: 10.1111/j.1551-6709.2010.01110.x
- Issue published online: 6 JUL 2010
- Article first published online: 14 JUN 2010
- Received 1 September 2009; received in revised form 30 March 2010; accepted 31 March 2010
- Spatial cognition;
- Cognitive development;
- Conceptual change;
- Form perception;
For many centuries, philosophers and scientists have pondered the origins and nature of human intuitions about the properties of points, lines, and figures on the Euclidean plane, with most hypothesizing that a system of Euclidean concepts either is innate or is assembled by general learning processes. Recent research from cognitive and developmental psychology, cognitive anthropology, animal cognition, and cognitive neuroscience suggests a different view. Knowledge of geometry may be founded on at least two distinct, evolutionarily ancient, core cognitive systems for representing the shapes of large-scale, navigable surface layouts and of small-scale, movable forms and objects. Each of these systems applies to some but not all perceptible arrays and captures some but not all of the three fundamental Euclidean relationships of distance (or length), angle, and direction (or sense). Like natural number (Carey, 2009), Euclidean geometry may be constructed through the productive combination of representations from these core systems, through the use of uniquely human symbolic systems.