The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has awarded 180 Fellowships to a diverse group of scholars, artists, and scientists in its eighty-seventh annual competition for the United States and Canada. Appointed on the basis of prior acheivement and exceptional promise, Pascal Boyer was chosen from a group of almost 3,000 applicants.
Boyer combines experimental (laboratory) studies with field research to show how human brains, by virtue of their evolutionary history, share certain conceptual dispositions which in turn make certain kinds of cultural concepts particularly easy to learn and transmit, and therefore very frequent in otherwise diverse human cultures.
He also uses psychological and anthropological techniques to describe the interaction between "collective memory," how people in a group remember their past, and "individual memory," in particular autobiographical memory.
His recent work bears on the early development of concepts of agency and personhood (what makes persons and animals different from inert objects) and on early mathematical concepts, as well as on the specifically human neural structures that support such competencies.
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