Cognition from life: The two modes of cognition that underlie moral behavior

Author(s): Andringa, T.C., K.A.-M. Van Den Bosch, N. Wijermans
In: Frontiers in Psychology 6: 362
Year: 2015
Type: Journal / article
Link to centre authors: Wijermans, Nanda
Full reference: Andringa, T.C., K.A.-M. Van Den Bosch, N. Wijermans. 2015. Cognition from life: The two modes of cognition that underlie moral behavior. Frontiers in Psychology 6: 362.


We argue that the capacity to live life to the benefit of self and others originates in the defining properties of life. These lead to two modes of cognition; the coping mode that is preoccupied with the satisfaction of pressing needs and the co-creation mode that aims at the realization of a world where pressing needs occur less frequently. We have used the Rule of Conservative Changes – stating that new functions can only scaffold on evolutionary older, yet highly stable functions – to predict that the interplay of these two modes define a number of core functions in psychology associated with moral behavior.

We explore this prediction with five examples reflecting different theoretical approaches to human cognition and action selection. We conclude the paper with the observation that science is currently dominated by the coping mode and that the benefits of the co-creation mode may be necessary to generate realistic prospects for a modern synthesis in the sciences of the mind.


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