Broad-Minded: Sociality and the Cognitive Science of Morality

John M. Doris, Shaun Nichols

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

12 Scopus citations


The article gives an overview on the concept of individualism in cognitive science. Individualism maintains that optimal human reasoning is substantially asocial, and therefore implies that sociality does not facilitate, and may impede, reasoning. The cognitive science of morality very frequently proceeds with individualist assumptions. The individualist may allow that normal development requires sociality, but deny that optimal reasoning in mature individuals requires it. The optimal cognitive functioning is both developed and sustained through sociality. The optimal exercise of rationality is a socially embedded process. It means that sociality is not just a precondition of rationality, but that even among those with normal cognitive functioning, the optimal exercise of rationality typically occurs as part of a social process. The sociality has a significant role in substantial cognitive achievement, such as scientific and technological discovery. A large body of research indicates that motivation plays a crucial role in reasoning. The optimal human reasoning is substantially asocial, and sociality is necessary for the development of optimal reasoning. The sociality is necessary for the sustenance of optimal reasoning, and for the transmission of information. One important feature of group interactions is that they are likely to induce emotional responses. Many familiar emotions such as anger, guilt, and sympathy are characteristically triggered by cues in social interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Cognitive Science
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199940967
ISBN (Print)9780195309799
StatePublished - May 1 2012


  • Cognitive science of morality
  • Individualism
  • Optimal human reasoning
  • Sociality
  • Socially embedded reasoning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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