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 …

Practice Theory versus Problem-Solving

In 2009, Neil Gross argued that the critique of action as a calculation of means to ends, which had been ongoing for at least the prior thirty years, had been successful. Not only that, the insistence that “action-theoretical assumptions necessarily factor into every account of social order and change and …

Categories, Part I: The Fall of the Classical Theory

In a “monster of the week” episode of the The X-Files, Mulder and Scully encounter a genie, Jenn. She tells Mulder — who has three wishes — “Everyone I come in contact with asks for the wrong things…” Thinking the trick is to ask for something altruistic, Mulder wishes for …

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 …

Habitus and Learning to Learn: Part I

In this and subsequent posts, I will attempt to revise, reconceptualize and update the concept of habitus using the theoretical and empirical resources of contemporary cognitive neuroscience and cognitive social science. I see this step as necessary if this Bourdieusian notion is to have a future in social theory. Conversely, …

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 …

Back to Top