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Bentley, Shteynberg, Garthoff Publish Interdisciplinary Paper on Collective Learning

Alex BentleyAlex Bentley, head of the Department Anthropology, published an interdisciplinary paper with Associate Professor of Psychology Garriy Shteynberg 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.

“In my field, we assume that societies accumulate knowledge through social learning, over a range of time scales, from Neolithic societies to modern social media discourse,” Bentley said. “In this paper, we propose something completely novel for my area of research – that we don’t just learn from each other, but that we learn with each other.”

In an era of heightened collective attention, this concept could hold insight into how to plan knowledge sharing in the future.

“Group structure is important to how knowledge is shared and brings up very interesting questions about how social media, online publishing, or online teaching might fundamentally affect how groups learn with each other,” Bentley 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