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Penn Museum presents:

Is there a primitive mentality essentially
different from a civilized one?

Or do people learn and mentally organize their experience in similar ways in spite of differences in their cultures and in the content of what they have to learn?

We know that all people, if raised in the appropriate environment, prove capable of learning to speak any language and to think and operate effectively in the context of any culture. But what about different people's traditional bodies of specialized lore? Are they organized in similar ways, or not? Cognitive psychologists are interested in understanding how specialists mentally process and store their knowledge so that they can retrieve it as needed.

Traditional navigators of the Central Caroline Islands provide a case in point. The Carolinian art of navigation includes a sizable body of knowledge developed to meet the needs of ocean voyaging for distances of up to several hundred miles among the tiny islands and atolls of Micronesia. Lacking writing, local navigators have had to commit to memory their knowledge of the stars, sailing directions, seamarks, and how to read the waves and clouds to determine currents and predict weather.

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