We are animals aspiring to rationality in making sense of our Platonic caves
Cognitive niche is a certain layout or presentation of reality, that fits our cognitive apparatus and location.
It is not in our heads. It is our cognition-determined environment.
It is co-determined or enacted by us - creatures capable of cognition - in collaboration with our surroundings.
It's a living creature's cognitive Umwelt.
It's a collection of everything that is at a given place and at a given moment accessible to the cognitive and sensorimotor apparatus of a given cognizer.
It is our "Platonic" cave where we observe "Kantian" phenomena.
This concept - I believe - stands in the core of almost all my philosophical attempts.
My main aim has been to come up with a semi-formal ontology of the cognitive niche. A provisional version of it may be found in some of the papers listed below, but a major work in this field shall be done in the book I'm currently writing titled Addressing the Mind. An Ontology of Ecological Cognition.
My next project, which I've just starter to explore, will account for various social phenomena, especially institutions, in terms of cognitive niches.
Here are some works where I spill some ink on it:
Institutions as Cognitive Niches: A Dynamic of Knowledge and Ignorance. To appear in S. Arfini, L. Magnani (eds.) Embodied, Extended, Ignorant Minds: New Studies on the Nature of Not-Knowing (Synthese Library), Springer, 2022
Cognitive confinement: theoretical considerations on the construction of a cognitive niche, and on how it can go wrong. Synthese 198, 2021: 6297–6328 doi: 10.1007/s11229-019-02464-7
Enactment and construction of the cognitive niche: toward an ontology of the mind-world connection, Synthese 197, 2020: 1313–1341 https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-018-1756-1
Cognitive confinement, embodied sense-making, and the (de)colonization of knowledge. Philosophical Papers 49 (2) 2020: 339 – 364 doi 10.1080/05568641.2020.1779603
Coordination produces cognitive niches, not just experiences. A formal constructivist ontology based on von Foerster, Constructivist Foundations 12 (3) 2017: 301 – 308
The term "cognitive niche" was first introduced by J. Tooby and I. De Vore:
Tooby, J., & DeVore, I. (1987). The reconstruction of hominid behavioral evolution through strategic modeling. In W. G. Kinzey (Ed.), Primate models of hominid behavior (pp. 183–237). Albany: Suny Press.
Here are some other relevant works:
Arfini, S., Bertolotti, T., & Magnani, L. (2017). Online communities as virtual cognitive niches. Synthese. https ://doi.org/10.1007/s1122 9-017-1482-0.
Bertolotti, T., & Magnani, L. (2017). Theoretical considerations on cognitive niche construction. Synthese, 194, 4757–4779.
Clark, A. (2005). Word, niche and super-niche: How language makes minds matter more. Theoria, 54, 255–268.
Clark, A. (2006). Language, embodiment, and the cognitive niche. Trends in Cognitive Science, 10(8), 370–374.
Laland, K. N., & O’Brien, M. J. (2011). Cultural niche construction: An introduction. Biological Theory, 6, 191–202.
Pinker, S. (2003). Language as an adaptation to the cognitive niche. In M. H. Christiansen & S. Kirby (Eds.), Language evolution (pp. 16–37). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Pinker, S. (2010). The cognitive niche: Coevolution of intelligence, sociality, and language. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 17(Suppl. 2), 8993–8999.
Smith, B., & Varzi, A. (1999). The niche. Noûs, 33(2), 214–238.
Stotz, K. (2010). Human nature and cognitive-developmental niche construction. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 9, 483–501.