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date: 18 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article focuses on one aspect of a comprehensive theory of human cognitive evolution, and that is mimesis. Mimesis is an embodied, analogue, and primordial mode of representation, in the sense that it is a preadaptation for language and also a self-sufficient cognitive adaptation in its own right, which accounts for some of the major features of human cultural and cognitive life. A mimetic act is a performance that reflects the perceived event structure of the world, and is the purest form of embodied representation. It has three behavioral manifestations that include rehearsal of skill, in which the actor imagines and reproduces previous performances with a view to improving them. Other include re-enactive mime, in which patterns of action, usually of others, are reproduced in the context of play or fantasy, and lastly, non-linguistic gesture, where an action communicates an intention through resemblance. The contents of mimetic acts are observable by others, which makes them a potential basis for a culturally accepted “mimetic” vernacular, enabling members of a group to share knowledge, feelings, customs, skills, and goals, and to create group displays of emotions and intentions that are conventional and deliberate. These types of shared representations seem quite limited, when compared to language, but constitute a powerful means of creating culture and sharing custom, feeling, and intent.

Keywords: mimesis, human cognitive evolution, cognitive adaptation, re-enactive mime, non-linguistic gesture

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