Journal article

What is Symbolic Cognition?

Ronald J Planer

Topoi | SPRINGER | Published : 2021


Humans’ capacity for so-called symbolic cognition is often invoked by evolutionary theorists, and in particular archaeologists, when attempting to explain human cognitive and behavioral uniqueness. But what is meant by “symbolic cognition” is often left underspecified. In this article, I identify and discuss three different ways in which the notion of symbolic cognition might be construed, each of them quite distinct. Getting clear on the nature of symbolic cognition is a necessary first step in determining what symbolic cognition might plausibly explain.

University of Melbourne Researchers