Doug L Medin

Doug L Medin
Northwestern University | NU · Department of Psychology

PhD, Psychology

About

234
Publications
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Publications

Publications (234)
Article
Yarkoni's paper makes an important contribution to psychological research by its insightful analysis of generalizability. We suggest, however, that broadening research practices to include field research and the correlated use of both converging and complementary observations gives reason for optimism.
Article
Parent-child communication is a rich, multimodal process. Substantial research has documented the communicative strategies in certain (predominantly White) United States families, yet we know little about these communicative strategies in Native American families. The current study addresses that gap by documenting the verbal and nonverbal behavior...
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There is considerable agreement that cognitive development is shaped by culture. Less clear, however, is the mechanism by which culture exerts its influence as cognition unfolds. Prior work has primarily focused on culture as a species-specific medium of cognitive development or as an explicative factor of cognitive capacities. Here we describe a m...
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There is considerable agreement that cognitive development is shaped by culture. Less clear, however, is the mechanism by which culture exerts its influence as cognition unfolds. Prior work has primarily focused on culture as a species-specific medium of cognitive development (see Gauvain, Beebe, & Zhao, 2011 for a review) or as an explicative fact...
Article
We present a new account of the cognitive commitments at stake in animist epistemologies. We use field‐based cognitive experiments to contribute to anthropological theories of the new animism, focusing on concepts of nonhuman agency afforded on one animist framework, that of the Ngöbe of Panama. Results from multiple studies using converging method...
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This paper discusses findings from 40 ethnographically inspired interviews with 21 Native science professionals conducted in two iterative phases (21 in Phase I and 19 in Phase II), and a structured dialogue workgroup session with a six-member subset of the interviewees. Interview and group questions were open-ended to allow the participants to driv...
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This commentary focuses on two important contrasts in the behavioral sciences: (i) default versus nondefault study populations, where default samples have been used disproportionately (for psychology, the default is undergraduates at major research universities), and (ii) the adoption of a distant versus close (engaged) attitude toward study sample...
Article
A cross-cultural approach to moral psychology starts from researchers withholding judgments about universal right and wrong and instead exploring what the members of a community subjectively perceive to be moral or immoral in their local context. This study seeks to identify the moral concerns that are most relevant to listeners of hip-hop music. W...
Article
Indigenous sciences are foundationally based in relationships, reciprocity, and responsibilities. These sciences constitute systems of knowledge developed through distinct perspectives on and practices of knowledge creation and decision-making that not only have the right to be pursued on their own terms but may also be vital in solving critical tw...
Article
This study examined the play of 4-year-old children with a forest diorama that included toy representations of plants and animals. To examine the potential role of culture and expertise in diorama play, children from three samples participated: rural Native American, urban Native American and urban non-Native American. Children’s playtime was divid...
Chapter
Questions about concepts bring into play all the cognitive science disciplines. For many centuries, concepts belonged to philosophy; but more recently, these original caretakers have shared responsibility for this domain with cognitive and developmental psychology, linguistics, artificial intelligence, anthropology, and neuroscience. Each of these...
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Psychological science is increasingly diverse in the tools available for research and the questions it is able to ask. But this potential is seriously limited by a lack of diversity in study populations, in situations and contexts explored, and in the researchers themselves. The current situation is problematic and difficult to change because of ni...
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Community engagement and participation in academic research is growing in popularity and acceptance. Communities are now routinely engaged and participate in academic research design, implementation and interpretation, but the capacity of communities to conduct their own research is not always a product of these engagement initiatives. This article...
Article
The present research investigates cultural variation in grounding principles for inferring agency in order to address an important theoretical debate: does cultural diversity in agency concepts reflect an animistic overextension of (universal) folkpsychology, as many have argued, or an alternative theory of folkcommunication based on relational pri...
Article
The present research addresses cultural variation in concepts of agency. Across two experiments, we investigate how Indigenous Ngöbe of Panama and US college students interpret and make inferences about nonhuman agency, focusing on plants as a critical test case. In Experiment 1, participants predicted goal-directed actions for plants and other non...
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Intrinsic to the social, educational and behavioural sciences is the aim of addressing patterned variation in human thought and action across settings. Surprisingly, however, empirical work in these sciences continues to be limited by a lack of diversity in study populations, research methodology and the researchers themselves. This Perspective ana...
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This study explores success among Native Americans in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines and careers. We investigate how identities are negotiated as individuals navigate educational, professional, and community landscapes, as well as the historical legacy of the detrimental way that Western science has positioned...
Article
Across the world, people form folkbiological categories to capture their commonsense organization of the natural world. Structured in accordance with universal principles, folkbiological categories are also shaped by experience. Here we provide new evidence from the Wichi—an understudied indigenous community who live in the Chaco rainforest and spe...
Chapter
This chapter describes a central tenet of Indigenous American social interaction, which emphasizes mutuality in collaboration and caring in Indigenous communities. This includes interactions with an agentive natural world, in which more-than-human beings act as participants in the lives of humans and vice versa. We argue that research on children's...
Article
Do cultural models facilitate particular ways of perceiving interactions in nature? We explore variability in folkecological principles of reasoning about interspecies interactions (specifically, competitive or cooperative). In two studies, Indigenous Panamanian Ngöbe and U.S. participants interpreted an illustrated, wordless nonfiction book about...
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The present research investigates cultural variation in conceptual frameworks for interpreting agency. A mind perception measure (Gray, Gray, & Wegner, 2007) was adapted for interviews with Indigenous Ngöbe adults in Panama and US college students. Participants ranked the agency capacities of various entities and provided explanations. Rankings var...
Chapter
The relation between culture and concepts has long been a fascinating topic for layperson and scientist alike. But often this topic has generated more heat than light—strong claims have been paired with weak evidence, and anecdotes have been more common than empirical data. More recently, however, interdisciplinary research programs have begun to d...
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The well-respected tradition of research on concepts uses cross-cultural comparisons to explore which aspects of conceptual behavior are universal versus culturally variable. This work continues, but it is being supplemented by intensified efforts to studyhowconceptual systems and cultural systems interact to modify and support each other. For exam...
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The main proposition of this paper is that science communication necessarily involves and includes cultural orientations. There is a substantial body of work showing that cultural differences in values and epistemological frameworks are paralleled with cultural differences reflected in artifacts and public representations. One dimension of cultural...
Article
This work focuses on the underlying conceptual structure of children’s category of living things from a cross-cultural, cross-linguistic perspective. School-aged children (n = 129) from three Argentinean communities (rural Wichí-speaking, rural Spanish-speaking, urban Spanish-speaking) were asked to generate the names of living things. Analyses wer...
Book
Originally published in 1976, this volume contains new and original contributions of the time addressed to a related set of ideas concerning processes of memory in animals. The theme is that animals remember and that theories of animal learning must take this into account as well as the coding processes that have been assumed to be specific to huma...
Article
In the hope to resolve the two sets of opposing results concerning the effects of psychological distance and construal levels on moral judgment, Žeželj and Jokić (2014) conducted a series of four direct replications, which yielded divergent patterns of results. In our commentary, we first revisit the consistent findings that lower-level construals...
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What is the relation between humans and non-human animals? From a biological perspective, we view humans as one species among many, but in the fables and films we create for children, we often offer an anthropocentric perspective, imbuing non-human animals with human-like characteristics. What are the consequences of these distinctly different pers...
Article
Research in the field of learning sciences demonstrates that various forms of knowledge are created through participation in diverse but often undervalued community practices (Nasir, Rosebery, Warren, & Lee, 2006). However, knowledge created in practice is not traditionally explored in research about complex systems thinking (Duarte Olson, Forthcom...
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This study reports ethnographic and experimental analyses of inter-generational changes in native Itza' Maya and immigrant Ladino populations of Guatemala's Petén rainforest concerning understanding of ecological relationships between plants, animals, and humans, and the perceived role of forest spirits in sustaining these relationships. We find dr...
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Calls for the improvement of science education in the USA continue unabated, with particular concern for the quality of learning opportunities for students from his-torically nondominant communities. Despite many and varied efforts, the field contin-ues to struggle to create robust, meaningful forms of science education. We argue that 'settled expe...
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Culture plays a large but often unnoticeable role in what we teach and how we teach children. We are a country of immense diversity, but in classrooms the dominant European-American culture has become the language of learning.
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Rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) were trained to discriminate standard stimuli which were Munsell papers differing considerably in Hue, Value, and Chroma. They were then given stimuli lying between the standards and were required to match each stimulus to one of the standards. Matching depended on changes in one dimension, as well as simultaneous ch...
Chapter
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This chapter reviews a body of research on cultural differences in framework theories for engaging with nature, focusing primary on Indigenous American and European-American comparisons. Native-American samples reveal a pattern of converging observations that point to a relational epistemological orientation and a propensity for systems level think...
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Ss were first trained on a word-number paired-associate list and then given testing on a two-choice differential reward learning paradigm. One of the two words in each pair had been used in the paired-associate training, and the number of points associated with the word was the same as during paired-associate learning. The other member of each pair...
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An examination of artifacts provides insights into the goals, practices, and orientations of the persons and cultures who created them. Here, we analyze storybook texts, artifacts that are a part of many children's lives. We examine the stories in books targeted for 4–8-year-old children, contrasting the texts generated by Native American authors v...
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Four monkeys were tested on successive problems involving cue-response separations. The usual AA go left/BB go right paradigm was altered by introducing neutral (N) stimuli in place of one of the As or Bs to create NA, AN, BN, and NB configurations. The neutral stimulus created cue-response separations equal to the foodwell separation in two of the...
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This experiment tested the prediction that increased spatial separation of discriminanda would facilitate successive discrimination learning. Eight pigtailed monkeys were trained concurrently on two successive discrimination problems, one with a small and the other with a large separation of cues. Better performance was associated with the larger c...
Article
According to the theory of 'promiscuous teleology', humans are naturally biased to (mistakenly) construe natural kinds as if they (like artifacts) were intentionally designed 'for a purpose'. However, this theory introduces two paradoxes. First, if infants readily distinguish natural kinds from artifacts, as evidence suggests, why do school-aged ch...
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Although mutually advantageous cooperative strategies might be an apt account of some societies, other moral systems might be needed among certain groups and contexts. In particular, in a duty-based moral system, people do not behave morally with an expectation for proportional reward, but rather, as a fulfillment of debt owed to others. In such sy...
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Monkeys were given a mixture of discrimination training and choice trials. The choice involved a previously unchosen object selected from a trial where the chosen object had been rewarded vs. a previously unchosen object selected from a trial where the chosen object had not been rewarded. On these nondifferentially rewarded choice trials, monkeys e...
Article
How do children come to understand the relation between human and nonhuman animals? This relation is central to endeavors as diverse as scientific reasoning and spiritual practice. Recent evidence reveals that young children appreciate each of the two concepts - human and non-human animal. Yet it remains unclear whether they also appreciate that hu...
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Explored how psychological distance influences moral judgment and found that more extreme moral appraisals were given to distal behaviors rather than proximal behaviors. Contrary to Eyal et al., the current paper presents converging evidence showing that moral judgments become more extreme at lowerlevel construals compared to higher-level construal...
Article
This conclusion of the debate on anthropology's role in cognitive science provides some clarifications and an overview of emergent themes. It also lists, as cases of good practice, some examples of productive cross-disciplinary collaboration that evince a forward momentum in the relationship between anthropology and the other cognitive sciences.
Article
Anthropology and the other cognitive science (CS) subdisciplines currently maintain a troubled relationship. With a debate in topiCS we aim at exploring the prospects for improving this relationship, and our introduction is intended as a catalyst for this debate. In order to encourage a frank sharing of perspectives, our comments will be deliberate...
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Harmful events often have a strong physical component-for instance, car accidents, plane crashes, fist fights, and military interventions. Yet there has been very little systematic work on the degree to which physical factors influence our moral judgments about harm. Since physical factors are related to our perception of causality, they should als...
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Many accounts of categorization equate goodness-of-example with central tendency for common taxonomic categories; the best examples of a category are average members#x2014;those that are most similar to most other category members. In the present study, we asked 24 tree experts and 20 novices to rate goodness-of-example for a sample of 48 trees and...
Article
Abstract In spite of evidence for cultural variation in adult concepts of the biological world (i.e., folkbiological thought), research regarding the influence of culture on children's concepts is mixed, and cultural influences on many aspects of early folkbiological thought remain underexplored. Previous research has shown that there are cultural...
Chapter
The psychological study of concepts has two main goals: explaining how people's knowledge of categories such as tables or cats enables them to classify or recognize members of those categories, and explaining how knowledge of word meanings (e.g., the meaning of table and cat) enables people to make inferences and to compute the meanings of phrases...
Article
We examine two core folk-biological concepts (e.g., animate, living thing, where small capital letters denote concepts; quotation marks denote their names; italics denote languagespecific names) in adults and children from the Wichí community, an indigenou group of Amerindians living in the Chaco forest in north Argentina. We provide an overview of...
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Would you redirect a trolley to save five people even if it means that the trolley will run over a person on the side track? Most people say they would. Would you push that same person into the path of the trolley in order to save the five? Most people say they would not. These sorts of intuitive moral judgments are made rapidly and seem almost aut...
Article
The current study examines 3- and 5-year-olds' representation of the concept we label 'animal' and its two nested concepts -animal(contrastive) (including only non-human animals) and animal(inclusive) (including both humans and non-human animals). Building upon evidence that naming promotes object categorization, we introduced a novel noun for two...
Article
Previous work on children's intuitive knowledge about the natural world has documented their difficulty in acquiring an overarching concept of biological life that includes plants as well as humans and non-human animals. It has also suggested that the acquisition of fundamental biological concepts like alive and die may be influenced by the languag...
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The idea that people inevitably act in accordance with their self-interest on the basis of a calculation of costs and benefits does not constitute an adequate framework for understanding political acts of violence and self-sacrifice. Recent research suggests that a better understanding is needed of how sacred values and notions of self and group id...
Chapter
IntroductionOverview on Human CognitionCategories, Reasoning, and ExpertiseImplications for Conceptions of Cultural Change and Cultural LearningCulture: The Precipitate of Cognition and CommunicationAcknowledgmentsReferences
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The importance of including cultural perspectives in the study of human cognition has become apparent in recent decades, and the domain of moral reasoning is no exception. The present review focuses on moral cognition, beginning with Kohlberg's model of moral development which relies heavily on people's justifications for their judgments and then s...
Chapter
Douglas Medin is the Louis W. Menk professor in psychology and in education and social policy at Northwestern University. He previously taught at Rockefeller University, the University of Illinois, and at the University of Michigan. Best known for his research on concepts and categorization, his recent research interests have extended to cross-cult...
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Conflict over Iran's nuclear program, which involves a US-led policy to impose sanctions on Iran, is perceived by each side as a preeminent challenge to its own national security and global peace. Yet, there is little scientific study or understanding of how material incentives and disincentives, such as economic sanctions, psychologically aff...
Article
Although there has been considerable focus on the underrepresentation of minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines and the need for science instruction that fosters diversity, much of the associated effort has focused on the goal of diversity and tended to assume that science and science learning are acultur...
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The home-field disadvantage refers to the disadvantage inherent in research that takes a particular cultural group as the starting point or standard for research, including cross-cultural research. We argue that home-field status is a serious handicap that often pushes researchers toward deficit thinking, however good the researchers' intentions ma...
Article
This paper reviews the uneven history of the relationship between Anthropology and Cognitive Science over the past 30 years, from its promising beginnings, followed by a period of disaffection, on up to the current context, which may lay the groundwork for reconsidering what Anthropology and (the rest of) Cognitive Science have to offer each other....
Article
We consider young children's construals of biological phenomena and the forces that shape them, using Carey's (1985) category-based induction task that demonstrated anthropocentric reasoning in young urban children. Follow-up studies (including our own) have questioned the generality of her results, but they have employed quite different procedures...
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What is the relation between human and nonhuman animals? As adults, we construe this relation flexibly, depending in part on the situation at hand. From a biological perspective, we acknowledge the status of humans as one species among many (as in Western science), but at the same time may adopt other perspectives, including an anthropocentric pers...
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Henrich et al.'s critical review demonstrating that psychology research is over-reliant on WEIRD samples is an important contribution to the field. Their stronger claim that "WEIRD subjects are particularly unusual" is less convincing, however. We argue that WEIRD people's apparent distinct weirdness is a methodological side-effect of psychology's...
Article
This article considers the semantic structure of the animal category from a cross-cultural developmental perspective. Children and adults from three North American communities (urban majority culture, rural majority culture and rural Native American) were prompted to generate animal names, and the resulting lists were analyzed for their underlying...
Article
Children's reasoning about biological concepts is influenced not only by their experiences in the natural world and in their classrooms, but also by the way that these concepts are named. In English, 'animal' can refer either to (a) exclusively non-human animals, or (b) all animate beings (human and non-human animals). In Indonesian, this category...
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Sacred values are different from secular values in that they are often associated with violations of the cost-benefit logic of rational choice models. Previous work on sacred values has been largely limited to religious or territorial conflicts deeply embedded in historical contexts. In this work we find that the Iranian nuclear program, a relative...
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There has been a recent upsurge of research on moral judgment and decision making. One important issue with this body of work concerns the relative advantages of calculating costs and benefits versus adherence to moral rules. The general tenor of recent research suggests that adherence to moral rules is associated with systematic biases and that sy...
Article
The question of why people are motivated to act altruistically has been an important one for centuries, and across various disciplines. Drawing on previous research on moral regulation, we propose a framework suggesting that moral (or immoral) behavior can result from an internal balancing of moral self-worth and the cost inherent in altruistic beh...
Article
There has been an upsurge of interest in moral decision making, which appears to have some distinctive properties. For example, some moral decisions are so strongly influenced by ideas about how sacred entities are to be treated, that they seem to be relatively insensitive to the costs and benefits entailed (e.g., “do not allow companies to pollute...
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The sacred values of a community are critical in understanding cultural conflict. When an attempt is made to trade a sacred value with a secular good, it evokes feelings of anger (taboo-tradeoff) but less so when that sacred value is traded off with another sacred value (tragic). Previous work has shown that participants who expressed sacred values...
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A long tradition in decision making assumes that people usually take a consequentialist perspective, which implies a focus on the outcomes only when making decisions. Such a view largely neglects the existence of a deontological perspective, which implies that people are sensitive to moral duties that require or prohibit certain behaviors, irrespec...
Article
Children's acquisition of fundamental biological concepts (living thing, animal, plant) is shaped by the way these concepts are named. In English, but not Indonesian, the name "animal" is polysemous: One sense includes all animate objects, and the other excludes humans. Because names highlight object categories, if the same name ("animal") points t...
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Decades of research have documented in school-aged children a persistent difficulty apprehending an overarching biological concept that encompasses animate entities like humans and non-human animals, as well as plants. This has led many researchers to conclude that young children have yet to integrate plants and animate entities into a concept LIVI...
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Morally-motivated decision making has recently emerged as an especially relevant domain of study for understanding cultural conflict. Baron and Spranca (1997) have proposed that people hold protected values that are protected against being traded off for other goods. One of the most characteristic properties of protected values is quantity insensit...