“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 …

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 …

Durkheimian Sociology and its Discontents: Why its Time for a New Sociology of Suicide

Since Durkheim showed that certain social structural factors, external to the individual, had a strong positive relationship to variation in suicide rates, sociologists have maintained the argument that suicide is caused by social forces and, therefore, is a phenomenon squarely in the domain of sociology. Yet, western medical professionals (Marsh …

On the Nature of Habit

Much like American sociological theory post-Parsons (Camic, 1986), habits have been given short shrift in the analytic philosophy of action tradition. As noted in previous posts, one problem is that habit-based explanations, being a form of dispositional account of action, are hard to reconcile with dominant intellectualist approaches to explaining …

Culture, Cognition and “Socialization”

Culture and cognition studies in sociology are mainly concerned with the construction,  transmission, and transformation of shared stocks of knowledge. This was clear in the classical theoretical foundations of contemporary work in the sociology of culture laid out in Parsons’s middle period functionalism (Parsons 1951) and in Berger and Luckmann’s …