How do Humans Overcome Individual Computational Limitations by Working Together?

Natalia Vélez, Brian Christian, Mathew Hardy, Bill D. Thompson, Thomas L. Griffiths

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Since the cognitive revolution, psychologists have developed formal theories of cognition by thinking about the mind as a computer. However, this metaphor is typically applied to individual minds. Humans rarely think alone; compared to other animals, humans are curiously dependent on stores of culturally transmitted skills and knowledge, and we are particularly good at collaborating with others. Rather than picturing the human mind as an isolated computer, we can imagine each mind as a node in a vast distributed system. Viewing human cognition through the lens of distributed systems motivates new questions about how humans share computation, when it makes sense to do so, and how we can build institutions to facilitate collaboration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13232
JournalCognitive science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


  • Cognitive modeling
  • Collaboration
  • Cultural evolution
  • Distributed computing
  • Social cognition


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