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Prehistoric origins of the human mind

Event information

START DATE 19 March 2015
START TIME 04:00pm

Committee Room 3, Town Hall, The Burroughs, London NW4 4BT

END DATE 19 March 2015
END TIME 06:00pm

Middlesex University's Department of Psychology plays host to two leading speakers in evolutionary psychology and neuroscience.

In this special event exploring the prehistoric origins of the human mind and brain, Middlesex University plays host to guest speakers Karenleigh Overmann from the University of Oxford and Frederick Coolidge from the University of Colorado - Colorado Springs.

4:00pm Karenleigh A. Overmann: 'Numerosity, materiality and numeral cognition' 


Why is increasing cultural complexity associated with counting to higher numbers? It's not just things to count and reasons to count them; materiality helps us think numerically, just as numbers change our behavior. This presentation reviews what numbers are as concepts and how they are acquired through the interaction of brains, bodies, and materiality (Malafouris' Material Engagement Theory). The brain contributes the perceptual experience of quantity (numerosity), while the body interfaces brain and world through functions like finger gnosia, haptic perception, and neural reactions to tools. Material artifacts used for counting shape number concepts through their affordances, influence numerical system outcomes over various time spans, and act as the intermediate level between what a society knows and what any individual learns. Various counting technologies—Neolithic clay tokens, Upper Paleolithic tallies and hand stencils, and Middle Stone Age beads—are reinterpreted through Material Engagement Theory.  

5:00pm Prof Frederick L Coolidge: 'Evolutionary neuropsychology'   


The present talk addresses the evolution of structures and functions of the human brain. Since the earliest origins of life, cellular evolution has been both a series of adaptations to the environment and subsequent exaptations. The latter involves the reuse, recycling, or redeployment of neurons for more complex higher cognitive functions, often in addition to their original purposes. The present lecture will address just some of the major exaptations of the human brain including the frontal, parietal, and temporal lobes (including the hippocampus), the cerebellum, sleep and its stages, and the extension of the brain into its external environment (embodied cognition). The talk is based upon a forthcoming book, Evolutionary Neuropsychology, to be published by Elsevier in early 2016. 


Karenleigh A. Overmann is a Clarendon scholar at the University of Oxford, where she is working toward a DPhil in Archaeology. She lectures for the Center for Cognitive Archaeology at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. She has an MA in psychology and a BA in anthropology, philosophy, and English from the University of Colorado. Her work has appeared in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Cambridge Archaeological Journal, Current Anthropology, Journal of Anthropological Sciences, Rock Art Research, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, Behavioral Sciences and the Law, Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal, and several edited volumes.

Frederick L Coolidge is a Professor of Psychology and Co-Director of the Center for Cognitive Archaeology at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. He received his PhD from the University of Florida and completed a two-year Postdoctoral Fellowship in Clinical Neuropsychology at Shands Teaching Hospital, Gainesville, Florida. He has received three USA Fulbright Fellowships to teach and conduct research in India. He has published six books, over 120 journal articles, and numerous book chapters on such wide-ranging topics as statistics, sleep and dreams, personality disorders, cognitive archaeology, and the evolution of modern cognition. He is currently a Senior Visiting Scholar at Oxford University, Keble College.

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