Skip to main content
Main content

The Cultural Mind: Environmental Decision Making and Cultural Modeling Within and Across Populations

This article describes cross-cultural research on the relation between how people conceptualize nature and how they act in it. Mental models of nature differ dramatically among populations living in the same area and engaged in similar activities. This has novel implications for environmental decision making and management, including commons problems. The research offers a distinct perspective on cultural modeling and a unified approach to studies of culture and cognition. The authors argue that cultural transmission and formation consist primarily not in shared rules or norms but in complex distributions of causally connected representations across minds interacting with the environment. The cultural stability and diversity of these representations often derive from rich, biologically prepared mental mechanisms that limit variation to readily transmissible psychological forms. This framework addresses several methodological issues, such as limitations on conceiving culture to be a well-defined system, bounded entity, independent variable, or an internalized component of minds.