The Original Sin of Cognitive Science


  • Stephen C. Levinson

    1. Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, and Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University, Nijmegen
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should be sent to Stephen C. Levinson, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, P.O. Box 310, NL-6500 HD Nijmegen, The Netherlands. E-mail:


Classical cognitive science was launched on the premise that the architecture of human cognition is uniform and universal across the species. This premise is biologically impossible and is being actively undermined by, for example, imaging genomics. Anthropology (including archaeology, biological anthropology, linguistics, and cultural anthropology) is, in contrast, largely concerned with the diversification of human culture, language, and biology across time and space—it belongs fundamentally to the evolutionary sciences. The new cognitive sciences that will emerge from the interactions with the biological sciences will focus on variation and diversity, opening the door for rapprochement with anthropology.