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Karenleigh Anne Overmann [9]Karenleigh A. Overmann [8]Karenleigh Overmann [4]
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Karenleigh Anne Overmann
University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
Karenleigh Anne Overmann
University of Bergen
  1. Materiality and Human Cognition.Karenleigh Overmann & Thomas Wynn - 2019 - Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 2 (26):457–478.
    In this paper, we examine the role of materiality in human cognition. We address issues such as the ways in which brain functions may change in response to interactions with material forms, the attributes of material forms that may cause change in brain functions, and the spans of time required for brain functions to reorganize when interacting with material forms. We then contrast thinking through materiality with thinking about it. We discuss these in terms of their evolutionary significance and history (...)
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  2. Beyond Writing: The Development of Literacy in the Ancient Near East.Karenleigh Overmann - 2016 - Cambridge Archaeological Journal 2 (26):285–303.
    Previous discussions of the origins of writing in the Ancient Near East have not incorporated the neuroscience of literacy, which suggests that when southern Mesopotamians wrote marks on clay in the late-fourth millennium, they inadvertently reorganized their neural activity, a factor in manipulating the writing system to reflect language, yielding literacy through a combination of neurofunctional change and increased script fidelity to language. Such a development appears to take place only with a sufficient demand for writing and reading, such as (...)
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  3. Thinking Materially: Cognition as Extended and Enacted.Karenleigh A. Overmann - 2017 - Journal of Cognition and Culture 17 (3-4):354-373.
    Human cognition is extended and enacted. Drawing the boundaries of cognition to include the resources and attributes of the body and materiality allows an examination of how these components interact with the brain as a system, especially over cultural and evolutionary spans of time. Literacy and numeracy provide examples of multigenerational, incremental change in both psychological functioning and material forms. Though we think materiality, its central role in human cognition is often unappreciated, for reasons that include conceptual distribution over multiple (...)
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  4. Constructing a Concept of Number.Karenleigh Overmann - 2018 - Journal of Numerical Cognition 2 (4):464–493.
    Numbers are concepts whose content, structure, and organization are influenced by the material forms used to represent and manipulate them. Indeed, as argued here, it is the inclusion of multiple forms (distributed objects, fingers, single- and two-dimensional forms like pebbles and abaci, and written notations) that is the mechanism of numerical elaboration. Further, variety in employed forms explains at least part of the synchronic and diachronic variability that exists between and within cultural number systems. Material forms also impart characteristics like (...)
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  5.  61
    Concepts and How They Get That Way.Karenleigh Anne Overmann - 2019 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 18 (1):153-168.
    Drawing on the material culture of the Ancient Near East as interpreted through Material Engagement Theory, the journey of how material number becomes a conceptual number is traced to address questions of how a particular material form might generate a concept and how concepts might ultimately encompass multiple material forms so that they include but are irreducible to all of them together. Material forms incorporated into the cognitive system affect the content and structure of concepts through their agency and affordances, (...)
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  6. Updating the “Abstract–Concrete” Distinction in Ancient Near Eastern Numbers.Karenleigh Overmann - 2018 - Cuneiform Digital Library Journal 1:1–22.
    The characterization of early token-based accounting using a concrete concept of number, later numerical notations an abstract one, has become well entrenched in the literature. After reviewing its history and assumptions, this article challenges the abstract–concrete distinction, presenting an alternative view of change in Ancient Near Eastern number concepts, wherein numbers are abstract from their inception and materially bound when most elaborated. The alternative draws on the chronological sequence of material counting technologies used in the Ancient Near East—fingers, tallies, tokens, (...)
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  7.  49
    On Tools Making Minds: An Archaeological Perspective on Human Cognitive Evolution.Karenleigh A. Overmann & Thomas Wynn - 2019 - Journal of Cognition and Culture 19 (1-2):39-58.
    Using a model of cognition as extended and enactive, we examine the role of materiality in making minds as exemplified by lithics and writing, forms associated with conceptual thought and meta-awareness of conceptual domains. We address ways in which brain functions may change in response to interactions with material forms, the attributes of material forms that may cause such change, and the spans of time required for neurofunctional reorganization. We also offer three hypotheses for investigating co-influence and change in cognition (...)
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  8. Creativity, Cognition and Material Culture: An Introduction.Lambros Malafouris, Chris Gosden & Karenleigh A. Overmann - 2014 - Pragmatics and Cognition 22 (1):1-4.
    Introduction to the special issue in Pragmatics & Cognition focused on creativity, cognition, and material culture. With contributions from Maurice Bloch, Chris Gosden, Tim Ingold, John Kirsh, Carl Knappett & Sander van der Leeuw, Lambros Malafouris, Frédéric Vallée-Tourangeau, Kevin Warwick, and Tom Wynn and Frederick L. Coolidge.
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  9.  93
    The Material Difference in Human Cognition.Karenleigh Anne Overmann - 2021 - Adaptive Behavior 29 (2):123-136.
    Humans leverage material forms for unique cognitive purposes: We recruit and incorporate them into our cognitive system, exploit them to accumulate and distribute cognitive effort, and use them to recreate phenotypic change in new individuals and generations. These purposes are exemplified by writing, a relatively recent tool that has become highly adept at eliciting specific psychological and behavioral responses in its users, capability it achieved by changing in ways that facilitated, accumulated, and distributed incremental behavioral and psychological change between individuals (...)
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  10.  97
    The Prehistory of Number Concept.Karenleigh A. Overmann, Thomas Wynn & Frederick L. Coolidge - 2011 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 34 (3):142-144.
    Carey leaves unaddressed an important evolutionary puzzle: In the absence of a numeral list, how could a concept of natural number ever have arisen in the first place? Here we suggest that the initial development of natural number must have bootstrapped on a material culture scaffold of some sort, and illustrate how this might have occurred using strings of beads.
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  11.  62
    The Curious Idea That Māori Once Counted by Elevens, and the Insights It Still Holds for Cross-Cultural Numerical Research.Karenleigh Anne Overmann - 2020 - Journal of the Polynesian Society 1 (129):59-84.
    The idea the New Zealand Māori once counted by elevens has been viewed as a cultural misunderstanding originating with a mid-nineteenth-century dictionary of their language. Yet this “remarkable singularity” had an earlier, Continental origin, the details of which have been lost over a century of transmission in the literature. The affair is traced to a pair of scientific explorers, René-Primevère Lesson and Jules Poret de Blosseville, as reconstructed through their publications on the 1822–1825 circumnavigational voyage of the Coquille, a French (...)
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  12. The Material Origin of Numbers: Insights From the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East.Karenleigh Anne Overmann - 2019 - Piscataway, NJ 08854, USA: Gorgias Press.
    What are numbers, and where do they come from? A novel answer to these timeless questions is proposed by cognitive archaeologist Karenleigh A. Overmann, based on her groundbreaking study of material devices used for counting in the Ancient Near East—fingers, tallies, tokens, and numerical notations—as interpreted through the latest neuropsychological insights into human numeracy and literacy. The result, a unique synthesis of interdisciplinary data, outlines how number concepts would have been realized in a pristine original condition to develop into one (...)
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  13. The Cultural Challenge in Mathematical Cognition.Andrea Bender, Dirk Schlimm, Stephen Crisomalis, Fiona M. Jordan, Karenleigh A. Overmann & Geoffrey B. Saxe - 2018 - Journal of Numerical Cognition 2 (4):448–463.
    In their recent paper on “Challenges in mathematical cognition”, Alcock and colleagues (Alcock et al. [2016]. Challenges in mathematical cognition: A collaboratively-derived research agenda. Journal of Numerical Cognition, 2, 20-41) defined a research agenda through 26 specific research questions. An important dimension of mathematical cognition almost completely absent from their discussion is the cultural constitution of mathematical cognition. Spanning work from a broad range of disciplines – including anthropology, archaeology, cognitive science, history of science, linguistics, philosophy, and psychology – we (...)
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  14. Visuospatial Integration: Paleoanthropological and Archaeological Perspectives.Emiliano Bruner, Enza Spinapolice, Ariane Burke & Karenleigh A. Overmann - 2018 - In Laura Desirèe Di Paolo, Fabio Di Vincenzo & Francesca De Petrillo (eds.), Evolution of Primate Social Cognition. Cham, Switzerland: Springer Verlag. pp. 299-326.
    The visuospatial system integrates inner and outer functional processes, organizing spatial, temporal, and social interactions between the brain, body, and environment. These processes involve sensorimotor networks like the eye–hand circuit, which is especially important to primates, given their reliance on vision and touch as primary sensory modalities and the use of the hands in social and environmental interactions. At the same time, visuospatial cognition is intimately connected with memory, self-awareness, and simulation capacity. In the present article, we review issues associated (...)
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  15. A Cognitive Archaeology of Writing: Concepts, Models, Goals.Karenleigh Anne Overmann - 2021 - In Philip Boyes, Philippa Steele & Natalia Elvira Astoreca (eds.), The social and cultural contexts of historic writing practices. Oxford: Oxbow. pp. 55-72.
    Complex systems like literacy and numeracy emerge through multigenerational interactions of brains, behaviors, and material forms. In such systems, material forms – writing for language and notations for numbers – become increasingly refined to elicit specific behavioral and psychological responses in newly indoctrinated individuals. These material forms, however, differ fundamentally in things like semiotic function: language signifies, while numbers instantiate. This makes writing for language able to represent the meanings and sounds of particular languages, while notations for numbers are semantically (...)
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  16.  14
    A New Look at Old Numbers, and What It Reveals About Numeration.Karenleigh Anne Overmann - 2021 - Journal of Near Eastern Studies 2 (80):291-321.
    In this study, the archaic counting systems of Mesopotamia as understood through the Neolithic tokens, numerical impressions, and proto-cuneiform notations were compared to the traditional number-words and counting methods of Polynesia as understood through contemporary and historical descriptions of vocabulary and behaviors. The comparison and associated analyses capitalized on the ability to understand well-known characteristics of Uruk-period numbers like object-specific counting, polyvalence, and context-dependence through historical observations of Polynesian counting methods and numerical language, evidence unavailable for ancient numbers. Similarities between (...)
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  17. Book Review: Cultural Development of Mathematical Ideas, Written by Geoffrey B. Saxe. [REVIEW]Karenleigh A. Overmann - 2014 - Journal of Cognition and Culture 14 (3-4):331-333.
    A review of Geoffrey B. Saxe, Cultural Development of Mathematical Ideas. Saxe offers a comprehensive treatment of social and linguistic change in the number systems used for economic exchange in the Oksapmin community of Papua New Guinea. By taking the cognition-is-social approach, Saxe positions himself within emerging perspectives that view cognition as enacted, situated, and extended. The approach is somewhat risky in that sociality surely does not exhaust cognition. Brains, bodies, and materiality also contribute to cognition—causally at least, and possibly (...)
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  18.  39
    Finger-Counting and Numerical Structure.Karenleigh A. Overmann - 2021 - Frontiers in Psychology 2021 (12):723492.
    Number systems differ cross-culturally in characteristics like how high counting extends and which number is used as a productive base. Some of this variability can be linked to the way the hand is used in counting. The linkage shows that devices like the hand used as external representations of number have the potential to influence numerical structure and organization, as well as aspects of numerical language. These matters suggest that cross-cultural variability may be, at least in part, a matter of (...)
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  19.  21
    Numerical Origins: The Critical Questions.Karenleigh Anne Overmann - 2021 - Journal of Cognition and Culture 5 (21):449-468.
    Four perspectives on numerical origins are examined. The nativist model sees numbers as an aspect of numerosity, the biologically endowed ability to appreciate quantity that humans share with other species. The linguistic model sees numbers as a function of language. The embodied model sees numbers as conceptual metaphors informed by physical experience and expressed in language. Finally, the extended model sees numbers as conceptual outcomes of a cognitive system that includes material forms as constitutive components. If numerical origins are to (...)
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  20. Squeezing Minds From Stones: Cognitive Archaeology and the Evolution of the Human Mind.Karenleigh Anne Overmann & Frederick Lawrence Coolidge (eds.) - 2019 - New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press.
    Cognitive archaeology is a relatively new interdisciplinary science that uses cognitive and psychological models to explain archaeological artifacts like stone tools, figurines, and art. Edited by cognitive archaeologist Karenleigh A. Overmann and psychologist Frederick L. Coolidge, Squeezing Minds From Stones is a collection of essays, from both early pioneers and 'up and coming' newcomers in the field, that addresses a wide variety of cognitive archaeology topics, including the value of experimental archaeology, primate archaeology, the intent of ancient tool makers, and (...)
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  21.  84
    4E Cognition in the Lower Palaeolithic: An Introduction.Thomas Wynn, Karenleigh Anne Overmann & Lambros Malafouris - forthcoming - Adaptive Behavior:99-106.
    This essay introduces a special issue focused on 4E cognition (cognition as embodied, embedded, enactive, and extended) in the Lower Palaeolithic. In it, we review the typological and representational cognitive approaches that have dominated the past fifty years of paleoanthropology. These have assumed that all representations and computations take place only inside the head, which implies that the archaeological record can only be an “external” product or the behavioral trace of “internal” representational and computational processes. In comparison, the 4E approach (...)
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