Cognition and Cultural Kinds

What the proper relationship should be between “culture” and “cognition” has been a fundamental issue ever since the emergence of psychology as a hybrid science in the middle of the nineteenth century (Cole, 1996). This question became even more pressing with the consolidation of anthropology and sociology as standalone socio-cultural …

Does Labeling Make a Thing “a Thing”?

“Reality is continuous” Zerubavel (1996:426) tells us, “and if we envision distinct clusters separated from one another by actual gaps it is because we have been socialized to ‘see’ them.” This assumption, that without “socialization” an individual would experience reality as meaningless—or as William James (1890:488) said of the newborn …

Internalized Cultural Kinds

Internalization used to be a central concept in cultural theory in sociology, anthropology, psychology, and related fields. It was the theoretical centerpiece of Talcott Parsons’s blend of anthropological culture theory, sociological functionalism, and Freudian psychoanalysis ensuring the “interpenetration” of the cultural, social, and personality systems (Alexander, 2014; Kuper, 2009; Lizardo, …

Varieties of Implicitness in Cultural-Cognitive Kinds

In a previous post, I addressed some issues in applying the property of “implicitness” to cultural kinds. There I made two points; first, unlike other ontological properties considered (e.g., concerning location or constitution), implicitness is a relational property. That is, when we say a cultural kind is implicit, we presume that there is …

Habitus and Learning to Learn: Part III

Language, Habitus, and Cultural Cognition The recasting of habitus as a neuro-cognitive structure conducive to learning opens up promising avenues otherwise foreclosed in traditional cultural theory (see here and here for previous discussion). However, it also opens up some analytical difficulties, especially when it comes to the role of language …

Image Schemas: The Physics of Cultural Knowledge?

Recent posts by Omar (see here and here) discuss the importance of specifying underlying philosophical claims when conceptualizing culture. The first post distinguishes ontic philosophical claims (about the nature of an entity/process) from epistemic philosophical claims (about the best way to gain knowledge about an entity/process), noting that “a lot …

Four arguments for the cognitive social sciences

Despite increasing efforts to integrate ideas, concepts, findings and methods from the cognitive sciences with the social sciences, not all social scientists agree this is a good idea. Some are indifferent to these integrative attempts. Others consider them as overly reductionist and, thereby, as a threat to the identity of …

Categories, Part II: Prototypes, Fuzzy Sets, and Other Non-Classical Theories

A few years ago The Economist published “Lil Jon, Grammaticaliser.” “Lil Jon’s track ‘What You Gonna Do’ got me thinking,” the author tells us, “of all things, the progressive grammaticalisation of the word shit.” In it, Lil Jon repeats “What they gon’ do? Shit” and in this lyric, shit doesn’t …

Identifying Cultural Variation in Thinking

What does it mean to identify cultural variation in thought? Sociologists routinely identify differences in the way people think or reason about things (e.g., Young 2004), but what does it mean to think differently, and how are differences identified? In this post, I introduce a way of thinking about this …

Habitus and Learning to Learn: Part II

Beyond the Content-Storage Metaphor The underlying neural structures constitutive of habitus are procedural (Kolers & Roediger, 1984), based on motor-schemas constructed from the experience of interacting with persons, objects, and material culture in the socio-physical world (Gallese & Lakoff, 2005; Malafouris, 2013). Habitus affords the capacity to learn because we …

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