Types of claims about culture and cultural phenomena

A relatively neglected task of cultural analysis (or cultural/culture theory) concerns itself with specifying the nature (and therefore expected properties) of the sorts of entities and processes that can be said to be cultural. Most serious cultural theorists do this, but they are seldom explicit to note that this is …

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 …

When is Consciousness Learned?

Continuing with the theme of innateness and durability from my last post, consider the question: are humans born with consciousness? In a ground-breaking (and highly contested) work, the psychologist Julian Jaynes argued that if only humans have consciousness, it must have emerged at some point in our human history. In …

Cultural Cognition in Time, from Memory to Imagination

Over the past few years, I have been thinking about the concept of imagination. It emerged out of my efforts to understand the generational change in public opinion about same-sex marriage in the U.S. when it became clear to me that young and old simply imagined homosexuality and same-sex marriage in …

Embodied knowledge vs. flesh and blood

As DiMaggio (1997) originally noted, most sociological theories of action make assumptions about the nature of cognition even as they dismiss any explicit discussion of cognition in favor of “social” explanation. Thinking about how culture comes to be taken up by the mechanisms of cognition and how it influences action …

“Learning By Nodes”: Dendritic Learning and What It Means (Or Not) for Cultural Sociology

In a paper published earlier this year in Scientific Reports and further discussed in a later ACS Chemical Neuroscience article, a group of researchers argues that learning might not function like we previously thought. The researchers (Sardi et al. 2018a, 2018b) explain that the dominant conceptualization in cognitive neuroscience of …

Limits of innateness: Are we born to see faces?

Sociologists tend to be skeptical of claims individuals are consistent across situations, as a recent exchange on Twitter exemplifies. This exchange was partially spurred by revelations that the famous Stanford Prison Experiment (which supposedly showed people will quickly engage in behaviors commensurate with their assigned roles even if it means …

Beyond Good Old-Fashioned Ideology Theory, Part Two

In part one, I examined two recent frameworks for understanding ideology (Jost and Martin) and explained how both serve as alternatives to the good old-fashioned ideology theory (GOFIT). Ultimately, I concluded that Martin’s (2015) model has specific advantages over Jost’s (2006) model, though the connection between ideology and “practical mastery …

Durkheimian Sociology and its Discontents, Part II: Why Culture, Social Psychology, & Emotions Matter to Suicide

In a previous post, I argued that despite its importance and “classical” status, sociologists have not contributed to the study of suicide as much as they could. While Anna Mueller and I have yet to posit a general or formal theoretical statement on suicide, in this post, I attempt to …

Beyond Good Old-Fashioned Ideology Theory, Part One

The concept of ideology is surely one of the sacred cow concepts of sociology (and the social sciences more generally) and is one of the special few that circulates widely outside the ivory tower. It is also a concept that is arguably the most indebted of all to the presumption that …

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