2 - Massively modular minds: evolutionary psychology and cognitive architecture  pp. 13-46

Massively modular minds: evolutionary psychology and cognitive architecture

By Richard Samuels

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In recent years evolutionary psychologists have defended a massively modular conception of cognitive architecture which views the mind as composed largely (or perhaps even entirely) of innate, special-purpose computational mechanisms or ‘modules’. This chapter has a pair of aims. First, I aim to dispel much of the confusion that surrounds discussions of evolutionary psychology by clarifying the massive modularity hypothesis (MMH) and contrasting it with other accounts of our cognitive architecture. Second, I aim to evaluate the plausibility of the MMH in light of the currently available arguments and evidence. Though the case in support of massive modularity fails to discriminate between MMH and other related accounts of cognition, I argue that it constitutes a plausible hypothesis that deserves to be taken very seriously. Moreover, I argue that the case against massive modularity is weak.

Introduction

What are the elements from which the human mind is composed? What structures make up our cognitive architecture? One of the most recent and intriguing answers to these questions comes from the newly emerging interdisciplinary field of evolutionary psychology. Evolutionary psychologists defend a massively modular conception of mental architecture which views the mind – including those parts responsible for such ‘central processes’ as belief revision and reasoning – as composed largely or perhaps even entirely of innate, special-purpose computational mechanisms or ‘modules’ that have been shaped by natural selection to handle the sorts of recurrent information-processing problems that confronted our hunter-gatherer forebears (Cosmides and Tooby, 1992; Sperber, 1994a; Samuels, 1998a).