I conduct philosophical, modelling, and experimental research on how evolution, mind, and culture link together. I focus in particular on the topics below. There are a few short, accessible essays on these and related topics here.
COGNITION & CULTURE
Culture emerges as the product of many micro-interactions between individual minds. But how, exactly, and how should we study culture from a naturalistic, materialist point-of-view? How do psychology and anthropology relate to one another? How should they?
- Scott-Phillips, T. C., Blancke, S., & Heintz, C. (working paper). Four misunderstandings about cultural attraction.
- Scott-Phillips, T. C. (2017). A (simple) experimental demonstration that cultural evolution is not replicative, but reconstructive – and an explanation of why this difference matters. Journal of Cognition & Culture, 17(1-2), 1-11.
- Scott-Phillips, T. C. (2016). Can cultural evolution bridge scientific continents? Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 57, 170-173.
- Claidière, N., Scott-Phillips, T. C. & Sperber, D. (2014). How Darwinian is cultural evolution? Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 369, 20130368.
EVOLUTIONARY EXPLANATION IN THE SOCIAL SCIENCES
The social sciences increasingly recognise the potential and utility of evolutionary perspectives, as part of proper explanations of human behaviour, and the mind. However, the exact nature and extent of this potential is disputed. What exactly does an evolutionary perspective offer, and what are its limits?
- Scott-Phillips, T. C., Laland, K. N., Shuker, D. M., Dickins, T. E. & West, S. A. (2014). The niche construction perspective: A critical appraisal. Evolution, 68(5), 1231-1243.
- Scott-Phillips, T. C., Dickins, T. E. & West, S. A. (2011). Evolutionary theory and the ultimate/proximate distinction in the human behavioural sciences. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6(1), 38-47.
- Scott-Phillips, T. C. (2007). The social evolution of language, and the language of social evolution. Evolutionary Psychology, 5(4), 740-753.
COMMUNICATION IN HUMANS & OTHER SPECIES
Human communication is manifestly different to the communication of other species. However, the exact nature of this difference remains disputed. To what extent is the communication of other species, and of human children, like that of mature human adults? What are the differences? What are the similarities?
- Scott-Phillips, T. C. (2015). Nonhuman primate communication, pragmatics, and the origins of language. Current Anthropology, 56(1), 56-80.
- Scott-Phillips, T. C. (2015). Meaning in animal and human communication. Animal Cognition, 18(3), 801-805.
- Scott-Phillips, T. C., Gurney, J., Ivens, A., Diggle, S. P., & Popat, R. (2014). Combinatorial communication in bacteria: Implications for the origins of linguistic generativity. PLoS One, 9(4), e95929.
- Grosse, G., Scott-Phillips, T. C. & Tomasello, M. (2013). Three-year-olds hide their communicative intentions in appropriate contexts. Developmental Psychology, 49(11), 2095-2101.
EVOLUTION & EMERGENCE OF COMMUNICATION
Communication is not a trait possessed by one or another individual; it is an interaction between two (or more) individuals. Signals and responses are fundamentally interdependent. This insight poses a number of interesting, foundational questions about its evolution and emergence.
- Blythe, R. A., & Scott-Phillips, T. C. (2014). Simulating the real origins of communication. PLoS One, 9(11), e113636.
- Scott-Phillips, T. C., Blythe, R., Gardner, A. & West, S. A. (2012). How do communication systems emerge? Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B, 279(1735), 1943-1949.
- Scott-Phillips, T. C., Kirby, S., & Ritchie, G. R. S. (2009). Signalling signalhood and the emergence of communication. Cognition, 113(2), 226-233.
- Scott-Phillips, T. C. (2008). Defining biological communication. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 21(2), 387-395.