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Psychology in the News

Shteynberg, Bentley, Garthoff Publish Interdisciplinary Paper on Collective Learning

Shteynberg, Bentley, Garthoff Publish Interdisciplinary Paper on Collective Learning


Garriy Shteynberg, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology, published an interdisciplinary paper with Alex Bentley, head of the Department Anthropology, and Associate Professor of Philosophy Jon Garthoff in the journal Psychological Review titled “Shared worlds and shared minds: A theory of collective learning and a psychology of common knowledge.”

Researchers studied collective learning and its impact on collective identities, social norms, and strategic cooperation.

“People practice collective attention when they assume that they are co-attending to the same physical object or event, or the same psychological experience or emotion,” Shteynberg said. “For example, when watching a movie with a friend, one can think of it as a movie that ‘we see’ that makes ‘us’ laugh, or cry.”

Researchers also offer a psychological explanation as to why people choose to cooperate with each other and when they come up with new social rules that govern their interactions.

“At the heart of the paper is the idea that even though a person’s actual perspective is always unique, imagining one’s perspective to be collective is the psychological foundation of human cultural life,” Shteynberg said.

Jacob Hirsch at the University of Toronto was an additional coauthor on the paper.

The trio received the College of Arts and Sciences 2019 Interdepartmental Collaborative Scholarship and Research Award during the annual faculty awards banquet for their work on this groundbreaking paper. The authors’ thesis provides a psychological answer (Shteynberg) to a long-standing philosophical problem (Garthoff), with implications for human evolution (Bentley).

-By Kelly Alley

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