IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Evolution and Devolution of Knowledge: A Tale of Two Biologies


  • Scott Atran

    () (IJN - Institut Jean-Nicod - ENS Paris - École normale supérieure - Paris - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

  • Douglas Medin
  • Norbert Ross


Anthropological inquiry indicates that all human cultures classify animals and plants in similar ways. This pre-theoretical knowledge also provided common ground for competing scientific investigations. Paradoxically, despite rapid advances in biological science, our citizenry's practical knowledge of nature is diminishing. Convenient choice of American and European students as psychology's preferred study populations obscures this fact. Here we describe historical, cross-cultural and developmental research on how people ordinarily conceptualize nature (naïve or folk biology), concentrating on cognitive consequences associated with knowledge devolution. Our approach integrates three disciplinary perspectives. For cognitive science, we show that results on categorization and reasoning from “standard populations” fail to generalize to humanity at large. For developmental research, we find that the usual populations studied represent impoverished experience with nature, yielding misleading results concerning the ontogenetic relationship between folkbiology and folkpsychology. For cultural and environmental studies, we show that groups living in the same habitat can manifest strikingly distinct behaviors, cognitions and social relations relative to it. This has novel implications for environmental decision making and management, including resource dilemmas such as the commons problem.

Suggested Citation

  • Scott Atran & Douglas Medin & Norbert Ross, 2002. "Evolution and Devolution of Knowledge: A Tale of Two Biologies," Post-Print ijn_00000144, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:ijn_00000144
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server:

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jebabli, Ikram & Arouri, Mohamed & Teulon, Frédéric, 2014. "On the effects of world stock market and oil price shocks on food prices: An empirical investigation based on TVP-VAR models with stochastic volatility," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 66-98.
    2. Beckmann, Joscha & Czudaj, Robert, 2013. "Is there a homogeneous causality pattern between oil prices and currencies of oil importers and exporters?," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 665-678.
    3. Marc Joëts & Valérie Mignon & Tovonony Razafindrabe, 2015. "Does the volatility of commodity prices reflect macroeconomic uncertainty?," Working Papers 2015-02, CEPII research center.
    4. Bassam Fattouh, Lutz Kilian, and Lavan Mahadeva, 2013. "The Role of Speculation in Oil Markets: What Have We Learned So Far?," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 3).
    5. Creti, Anna & Joëts, Marc & Mignon, Valérie, 2013. "On the links between stock and commodity markets' volatility," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 16-28.
    6. Robert B. Barsky & Lutz Kilian, 2004. "Oil and the Macroeconomy Since the 1970s," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(4), pages 115-134, Fall.
    7. repec:dau:papers:123456789/14980 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Brémond, Vincent & Hache, Emmanuel & Mignon, Valérie, 2012. "Does OPEC still exist as a cartel? An empirical investigation," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 125-131.
    9. Zivot, Eric & Andrews, Donald W K, 2002. "Further Evidence on the Great Crash, the Oil-Price Shock, and the Unit-Root Hypothesis," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 20(1), pages 25-44, January.
    10. Christiane Baumeister & Lutz Kilian, 2014. "Do oil price increases cause higher food prices?," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 29(80), pages 691-747, October.
    11. Lutz Kilian, 2008. "Exogenous Oil Supply Shocks: How Big Are They and How Much Do They Matter for the U.S. Economy?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(2), pages 216-240, May.
    12. Golub, Stephen S, 1983. "Oil Prices and Exchange Rates," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 93(371), pages 576-593, September.
    13. Lutz Kilian, 2008. "The Economic Effects of Energy Price Shocks," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(4), pages 871-909, December.
    14. Benassy-Quere, Agnes & Mignon, Valerie & Penot, Alexis, 2007. "China and the relationship between the oil price and the dollar," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(11), pages 5795-5805, November.
    15. Amano, R. A. & van Norden, S., 1998. "Oil prices and the rise and fall of the US real exchange rate," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 299-316, April.
    16. Timothy Cogley & Thomas J. Sargent, 2005. "Drift and Volatilities: Monetary Policies and Outcomes in the Post WWII U.S," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 8(2), pages 262-302, April.
    17. Lutz Kilian, 2009. "Not All Oil Price Shocks Are Alike: Disentangling Demand and Supply Shocks in the Crude Oil Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 1053-1069, June.
    18. Hamilton, James D., 2003. "What is an oil shock?," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 113(2), pages 363-398, April.
    19. van Amano, Robert A & Norden, Simon, 1998. "Exchange Rates and Oil Prices," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 6(4), pages 683-694, November.
    20. Christiane Baumeister & Gert Peersman, 2013. "Time-Varying Effects of Oil Supply Shocks on the US Economy," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(4), pages 1-28, October.
    21. Kilian, Lutz & Rebucci, Alessandro & Spatafora, Nikola, 2009. "Oil shocks and external balances," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(2), pages 181-194, April.
    22. Chen, Shiu-Sheng & Chen, Hung-Chyn, 2007. "Oil prices and real exchange rates," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 390-404, May.
    23. Benhmad, François, 2012. "Modeling nonlinear Granger causality between the oil price and U.S. dollar: A wavelet based approach," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 1505-1514.
    24. Giorgio E. Primiceri, 2005. "Time Varying Structural Vector Autoregressions and Monetary Policy," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(3), pages 821-852.
    25. Lutz Kilian & Bruce Hicks, 2013. "Did Unexpectedly Strong Economic Growth Cause the Oil Price Shock of 2003–2008?," Journal of Forecasting, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 32(5), pages 385-394, August.
    26. Lutz Kilian & Daniel P. Murphy, 2014. "The Role Of Inventories And Speculative Trading In The Global Market For Crude Oil," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 29(3), pages 454-478, April.
    27. Reboredo, Juan Carlos & Rivera-Castro, Miguel A. & Zebende, Gilney F., 2014. "Oil and US dollar exchange rate dependence: A detrended cross-correlation approach," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 132-139.
    28. Sadorsky, Perry, 2000. "The empirical relationship between energy futures prices and exchange rates," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 253-266, April.
    29. Hache, Emmanuel & Lantz, Frédéric, 2013. "Speculative trading and oil price dynamic: A study of the WTI market," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 334-340.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hal:journl:ijn_00000144. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (CCSD). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.