Edwin Hutchins studies human cognition from an anthropological perspective, focusing on the nature of cognitive activity in real-world settings.
Hutchins’ interdisciplinary method involves the application of insights from cognitive psychology, artificial intelligence, linguistics, and anthropology. He has applied this approach in researching topics such as land litigation in Papua New Guinea, techniques of traditional navigation in the Western Pacific, modern navigation aboard U.S. Naval vessels, and the design of airline cockpits. He is the author of Culture and Inference: A Trobriand Case Study (1980), in which he explores forms of logic among technologically primitive people, and Cognition in the Wild (1995), in which his extended analysis of ship navigation illustrates how anthropological methods can be combined with cognitive theory to produce a new reading of cognitive science.
He was a research scientist at the U.S. Navy Personnel Research and Development Center (1980-1988) where he designed computerized training systems for the instruction of sailors. Since 1988, Hutchins has been a professor in the Department of Cognitive Science at the University of California, San Diego, where he also directs the Distributed Cognition and Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory.
Hutchins received a B.A. (1971) and a Ph.D. (1978) in cultural anthropology from the University of California, San Diego.