Numerical Cognition: Learning Binds Biology to Culture

A recent exchange in this journal debates whether there is a biologically based capacity for number, or whether number is instead a cultural construction [1–3]. We propose that consideration of individual (cognitive) learning deserves more emphasis in this discussion. In particular, in addition to the slower time scales of biology and culture, individual learning provides a third, much faster evolutionary time scale, operating within an individual’s lifetime [4]. At this fast time scale, individuals learn to accommodate cognition (via instruction and trial-and-error learning) to their culture, constrained by their biology.