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 …

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, …

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 …

Internalization and Knowledge What

As discussed in a previous post, the sociological discussion of internalization has been traditionally dominated by an emphasis on processes in which other people, via the mediation of artifacts, serve as the primary conduits via which cultural-cognitive kinds are internalized. In that respect, sociologists do not seem to make too …

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 …

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 …

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 …

Thinking with Theory Diagrams

A recent book by Kate Raworth entitled Doughnut Economics (2017) has garnered a lot of attention. The goal of the book is revolutionary in spirit: to move economists to think more about basic social and ecological well-being. While this aim will certainly resonate with sociologists, the means of getting there …

Where Did Sewell Get “Schema”?

Although there are precedents to using the term “schema” in an analytical manner in sociology (e.g., Goffman’s Frame Analysis and Cicourel’s Cognitive Sociology), it is undoubtedly William Sewell Jr’s “A Theory of Structure: Duality, Agency, and Transformation” published in the American Journal of Sociology in 1992 that really launched the career of …

The Evocation Model of Framing

In a forthcoming article, my coauthors and I outline what we call an “evocation model” of framing by which a frame, understood as a situated assemblage of material objects and settings (i.e., a form of public culture), activates schemas, understood as flexible, multimodal memory structures (i.e., a form of personal …

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