Social communication

Human language: syntax, reference, and

Expandable vocabulary

Numerosity judgments

Subitizing ability

Estimation by extent

size illusions

relative comparisons

subjective frequency

Numbers (VII vs. 7, 0), measures (inches, quarts..)

Computing algorithms (adding, dividing, etc.), Pythagorean right angles

Explicit measurements

Objective records, inventories


Fragile memory

Oral traditions as history

Mnemonics, grouping of numbers

Self-priming (talk to self!)

Writing, other representations, e.g. maps, diagrams, sketches as models

Availability heuristic

Illusory correlation

Representative and base-rate bias

Conjunction fallacy


Correlation coefficient, statistics

Probability theory

Sampling theory

Basic logic

use statistical decision rule**

Phenomenal causality

Experimental procedures

Wait for instructions/directions

Live in "here and now"

Reflective consciousness and self-direction, mindfulness

Conscious foresight, insight

Intuition, implicit theories

Scientific theories, "laws", principles..

"folk psychology"

Scientific psychology

I have tried to more or less juxtapose the "naïve" across from its "mindtool" counterpart and cluster together a number of similar topics. Needless to say, this table is only a gross simplification! In addition to the particulars of the individual topics above, there are several general points that deserve discussion including the following.

(1) What we call "intelligence" today may be more an indication of one's ability to use, for whatever reasons, various of these basic "mindtools." This is no surprise given the importance of schooling in modern human culture.

(2) Next, the boundary between "naïve" and "tool" is vague and indeed may change if "tools" (or increasing probability of their acquisition) become part of the genetic heritage. This perhaps occurred in the evolution of language (Limber, 1982) and other possible instances of the "Baldwin effect" -- where a selective (fitness) advantage accrues to individuals who rapidly acquire a given "tool."

(3) Nor should it be assumed that the "naive" mind is useless because it is susceptible to errors -- often unavoidable ones unless a mind tool is used. In their normal environments -- the ones where their evolution occurred -- those features of the naive mind probably served a useful function.

Limber, J. (1982). What can chimps tell us about the origins of language. In S. Kuczaj (Ed.), Language Development: Volume 2 (pp. 429-446). Hillsdale, NJ: L. E. Erlbaum. (PDF

**For example, Goldman, L. et al (1999) Prediction of the need for intensive care in patients who come to emergency departments with acute chest pain. New England Journal of Medicine, 340, 619-626. (Also check work by Robyn Dawes.)