Can Schemas Motivate?

In an influential paper entitled “Schemas and Motivation,” the cognitive anthropologist Roy D’Andrade once remarked on the curious lack of relation (with reference to anthropological theory) …between culture and action. Of course, one can say ‘people do what they do because their culture makes them do it.’ The problem with this formulation is that …

Culture and Action, or Why Action Theory is not Optional

The main reason social scientists study culture is because of the (sometimes implicit) hypothesis that culture “affects” or “causes” action (Swidler 2001a, 2001b; Vaisey 2009). If culture was a causally inert cloud of stuff floating around doing nothing, it would not be worth anyone’s attention. That is, cultural theory and …

Simmel as a Theorist of Habit

The Journal of Classical Sociology has recently made available online a new translation, by John D. Boy, of Simmel’s classic essay on “The Metropolis and the Life of the Spirit” (better known to sociologists and urban studies people in previous translations as “The Metropolis and Mental Life”). Boy has an …

Habit versus Skill

Habit versus Skill Ascriptions Habit and skill tend to be run together in social theory and the philosophy of action (Dalton, 2004). However, there are good conceptual and empirical reasons to keep them distinct (Douskos, 2017b). Notably, the ascription of skill and habits entail different things about action, and only …

Habit as Prediction

In a previous post, Mike Strand points to the significant rise of the “predictive turn” in the sciences of action and cognition under the banner of “predictive processing” (Clark, 2015; Wiese & Metzinger, 2017). This turn is consequential, according to Mike, because it takes prediction and turns it from something …

Ontic Monism versus Pluralism in Cultural Theory

As discussed in a previous post, bundling ontic claims about culture have been used to argue that culture is a single kind of thing and demarcate the boundaries of cultural kinds. This can be referred to as ontic monism about cultural kinds. Thus, a theorist might say, following Kroeber (1917), …

Explaining social phenomena by multilevel mechanisms

Four questions about multilevel mechanisms In our previous post, we discussed mechanistic philosophy of science and its contribution to the cognitive social sciences. In this blog post, we will discuss three case studies of research programs at the interface of the cognitive sciences and the social sciences. In our cases, …

Causal mechanisms in the cognitive social sciences

The social sciences and the cognitive sciences have grown closer together during recent decades. This is manifested in the emergence and expansion of new research fields, such as social cognitive neuroscience (Cacioppo et al. 2012; Lieberman 2017), cognitive sociology (Brekhus & Ignatow 2019), behavioral economics (Dhami 2016), and new approaches …

Did John Dewey Put Prediction into Action?

Prediction does not appear, at first, to be something that a sociologist, or really any analyst of anything, can safely ascribe to those (or that) which they are studying without running afoul of about a thousand different stringent rules that define how probability can be used for the purposes of …

Cultural Kinds, Natural Kinds, and the Muggle Constraint

Cultural Kinds as Natural Kinds A key implication of our previous discussion on cultural kinds (see here, here, here, and here). Is that cultural kinds should be thought of as being in the same ontic register as the other kinds studied in the physical and special sciences. These include biological, …

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