Professor Cecilia Heyes to give this year's Chandaria Lectures in December 2017

Thursday 21 September 2017

The Institute of Philosophy is delighted to announce that this year's Chandaria Lecture series will be given by Professor Cecilia Heyes of the University of Oxford.

This year’s lectures will take place on the 8th, 12th and 15th of December in the Chancellor’s Hall at Senate House, London. The Chancellor's Hall will be accessible from 5:30pm and the lecture will run from 6:00pm to 7:00pm. The Chandaria Lectures tend to be very popular so it is recommended that you arrive early to secure a seat.

The lectures are open to the public and are free to attend but advanced booking is required. Please book a place at each lecture you would like to attend using the links on this webpage.


Speaker Bio

Cecilia Heyes is a Senior Research Fellow in Theoretical Life Sciences, and Professor of Psychology, at All Souls College, University of Oxford.  She was educated at UCL and, after postdoctoral research as a Harkness Fellow in the United States, and at the University of Cambridge, she taught at UCL for many years.  A philosophical psychologist, her research interests focus on the evolution of cognition; the ways that natural selection, developmental and cultural processes conspire to produce adult human minds.  She is a Fellow of the British Academy.


Lecture 1 – Cognitive Gadgets.

8th December 2017. Doors open at 5.30pm. Lecture 6:00pm – 7.00pm

Evolutionary psychology casts the human mind as a collection of cognitive instincts - organs of thought shaped by genetic evolution and constrained by the needs of our Stone Age ancestors.  This picture was plausible 25 years ago but, I argue, it no longer fits the facts.  Research involving infants and nonhuman animals now suggests that genetic evolution has merely tweaked the human mind, making us more friendly than our pre-human ancestors, more attentive to other agents, and giving us souped-up, general-purpose mechanisms of learning, memory and control.  Using these resources, our special-purpose organs of thought are built in the course of development through social interaction.  They are products of cultural rather than genetic evolution; cognitive gadgets rather than cognitive instincts.


Lecture 2 - Gadgets for Mindreading and Imitation. 

12th December 2017. Doors open at 5.30pm. Lecture 6:00pm – 7.00pm

Compared with chimpanzees, most adult humans are strikingly good at reading the minds of others, inferring their thoughts and feelings, and at copying the fine details of what others are doing.  Mindreading and imitation enable humans to cooperate on grand scales, and to accumulate wisdom over many generations.  Given their importance in making human lives so different from those of other animals, it’s tempting to think that mindreading and imitation are ‘in our genes’.  However, I argue, using evidence from developmental psychology and social cognitive neuroscience, that mindreading, like print reading, is taught by experts to novices.  Similarly, the capacity to imitate is built from ‘old parts’ in the course of childhood, and the construction process is powered by culture-specific patterns of social interaction. 


Lecture 3 - Cultural Evolutionary Psychology. 

15th December 2017. Doors open at 5.30pm. Lecture 6:00pm – 7.00pm

Evolutionary psychology was an important advance in understanding human origins.  Previously, bodies, brains and behaviour had been subjected to evolutionary analysis while the mind sat on a shelf.  Now, in the light of new evidence, evolutionary psychology needs to be extended to embrace cultural as well as genetic inheritance; the profound effects of social interaction in shaping the mind.  What are the priorities for this new approach?  Is it really ‘evolutionary’ in the Darwinian sense?  What does it imply about human nature, and our capacity to meet radically new social and technological challenges?  In this final lecture, I will consider the prospects for ‘cultural evolutionary psychology’.