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The Origins of MonstersImage and Cognition in the First Age of Mechanical Reproduction$
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David Wengrow

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780691159041

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691159041.001.0001

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Materials for an Epidemiology of Culture

Materials for an Epidemiology of Culture

(p.19) 2 Materials for an Epidemiology of Culture
The Origins of Monsters

David Wengrow

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines composite animals as counterfactual images by focusing on a school of evolutionary psychology called the “epidemiology of culture.” Experimental studies show that the cognitive processing of animal forms is highly sensitized to part-whole relations, such that a total presence may be inferred from quite limited visual cues. Pictures of animals—even when jumbled, distorted, or incomplete—may therefore activate neural pathways attuned to the recognition and differentiation of living kinds. Such observations make it possible to build bridges between the cognition of images and theories of cultural transmission. The chapter introduces a number of comparative observations on the status of composites in the visual arts of hunter-gatherers.

Keywords:   composite animals, counterfactual images, evolutionary psychology, epidemiology of culture, animals, cognition, cultural transmission, composites, visual arts, hunter-gatherers

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