The Lexical Semantics of Agency (Part II)

In a previous post I argued that the reasons why the concept of agency in sociological theory is “curiously abstract” has its roots in the ways theorists conceptualize the notion in particular usage episodes during theoretical argumentation. Particularly, conceptualizing agency as a substance (a “mass noun” like water or heat) …

Are We Cognitively Susceptible to Tests?

In one the clearest statements about the difference it makes to emphasize cognition in the study of culture and, more generally, for the social sciences as a whole, the anthropologist Maurice Bloch (2012) writes that, if we consider closely every time we use the word “meaning” in social science, then …

The Promise of Affective Science and the Sociology of Emotions

The sociology of emotions is a curious subfield. On the one hand, the recognition that the study of emotions (and their dynamics) overlap with nearly every single thing sociologists care to study suggests they deserve central casting in the myriad studies that fill journals and monographs (Turner and Stets 2006). …

What is an intuition?

Steve Vaisey’s 2009 American Journal of Sociology paper is, deservedly, one of the most (if not the most) influential pieces in contemporary work on culture and cognition in sociology. It is single-handedly responsible for the efflorescence of interest in the study of cognitive processes by sociologists in general, and more specifically …

Power and thinking dispositions

In a previous post, Gordon Brett made a compelling argument for moving sociological work on dual-process cognition forward. In a nutshell, Gordon encouraged sociologists to begin to study structural and situational variation in the extent to which people rely on one cognitive mode (e.g., intuition, System I) versus the other …

Cognitive Artifacts, Affordances, and External Representations: Implications for Cognitive Sociology

We use all kinds of artifacts in our everyday life to accomplish different types of cognitive tasks. We write scientific articles and blog posts by using word-processing programs. We prepare to-do lists to organize work tasks, and those of us who engage in statistical or computational analysis of data use …

The Lexical Semantics of Agency (Part I)

The concept of agency has been central in sociological theory at least since Parsons’s (selective) systematization of the late-nineteenth European tradition of social theory around the problematic of “action” (Parsons, 1937). Yet, since the dissolution of the sociological functionalist synthesis in the mid-1970s, anglophone social theory has been characterized by …

Wax On, Wax Off: Transposability and the Problem with “Domains”

  In the film Happy Gilmore, Adam Sandler plays a hockey player who is a terrible skater but has a powerful slap shot. The main story arc of the film is that Sandler will use this ability in the entirely different sport of golf. This is a fairly common trope. …

Consciousness and Schema Transposition

In a recent paper published in American Sociological Review, Andrei Boutyline and Laura Soter bring much-needed conceptual clarification to the sociological appropriation of the notion of schemas while also providing valuable and welcome guidance on future uses of the concept for practical research purposes. The paper is a tour de force, and all of you should read it …

Beyond Cultural Clumps

Clumppity-Clump Traditional approaches to the study of culture begin with “cultural clumps” and theorize from there. Like the devil, these clumps have been given many names throughout history. For instance, the unqualified use of the term “culture,” from Tylor’s famous definition onward, is usually meant to refer to such a …

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