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date: 14 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

What do insects have to do with human cognition? A look at how we think about societies of insects can serve to place analogies and human cognition within a social, cultural, and political context. Scientific analogies and their popularization in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries contributed support for ideas of hierarchical social organization in Western culture. As ideas of human social organization changed, so did the analogies of insect societies change to reflect self-organizing rather than hierarchal structure. These scientific analogies from the West are not shared by all other cultures. Instead, social insects may feature in nonhierarchical analogies or may not be viewed as significant to use in analogies at all. The case of social insect analogies provides unique evidence on the cultural and political shaping of cognitive patterns. Examining this case through cognitive sociology explains the dynamic and contextual qualities of analogical reasoning.

Keywords: social insects, hierarchical social structure, self-organizing, analogy, cognition

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