What about cognition and society?

When people talk about the relationships between cognitive science and the social sciences, they usually think of religion, art, information transmission, etc. They don't think of another cluster of topics such as family, race, justice, crime, institutions, hierarchy, coalitions, reputation, trust, and so on. In other words, they think to cognition and culture, but not to cognition and society. From an administrative point of view, they have anthropology in mind, but not sociology.

However, many a phenomenon in cognitive sciences would be relevant for sociology, and would benefit from sociology’s litterature: social categorization, emotions, moral cognition, reputation management, planning, etc. So far, the domain of cognition and society seems to be quite empty (but see Elster’s recent book). Relevant blogs are even rarer (Kanazawa’s blog seems to be an exception, talking about happiness, hierarchy, crimes, and, well, mostly about sex…).

Does anyone have an explanation for such a difference between anthropology and sociology? Do you know any good blog about cognition and society?





  • comment-avatar
    Nicolas Baumard 7 February 2009 (14:03)

    Thanks for The situationist! By the way, they have a nice [url=http://thesituationist.wordpress.com/2009/02/07/monkey-fairness/]post [/url]about fairness among capuchin (with an amazing video, too amazing actually to have a rational [url=http://cognitionandculture.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=397:are-dogs-and-chimps-really-inequity-averse&catid=37:nicolas&Itemid=34]discussion[/url]…). Yes, that’ right: economists,philosophers, law specialists are more and more interested by cognition. Unfortunately, sociologists do not seem to embrace cognition and society with the same enthusiasm…

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    Andrei Boutyline 14 February 2009 (18:41)

    If I was to venture a guess as to why the cognitive paradigm has not caught on as much in sociology, it would be that many sociologists are more concerned with causes that are located outside the body, such as social organizations, distribution of resources, and cultural productions. However, there are a number of sociologists working in the cognitive paradigm, and there is some indication that it is gaining in popularity. The most relevant person for your example is probably Rob Willer in Berkeley, who does work on gender ([url]http://sociology.berkeley.edu/faculty/willer/[/url]). Stephen Vaisey, also at Berkeley, uses cognitive concepts to talk about moral decision-making ([url]http://sociology.berkeley.edu/faculty/vaisey/[/url]). Rutgers Sociology offers a cognitive emphasis for its graduate students: [url]http://sociology.rutgers.edu/gradculture.html[/url]. Eviatar Zerubavel, who teaches there, has written a book ([url]http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/ZERSOC.html[/url]) about cognitive sociology. His aims include providing not only cognitive explanations for social phenomena, but also translating the “macro” sociological theories of knowledge construction into a cognitive framework. John Levi Martin (now at U Chicago) occasionally teaches a class on the same idea. Wayne Brekhus (at Mizzou) has an article describing the paradigm: [url]http://est.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/10/3/448[/url]. Off the top of my head, other departments that have produced work at the intersection of sociology and cog sci are Cornell and UCSD Sociology departments. As a sociology graduate student, I sincerely hope this interdisciplinary area grows. (Unfortunately, none of these people appear to be bloggers.)

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    Martin Kanovsky 15 March 2009 (16:03)

    I would suggest this article as well, written by Rogers Brubaker (UCLA) et al.: “Ethnicity as Cognition.” With Mara Loveman and Peter Stamatov. Theory and Society 33 [1] (2004): 31-64, available at http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/soc/faculty/brubaker/ I think Rogers provides here very useful general arguments how and why should sociology take into account a cognitive view.

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    Matthew Sullivan 11 July 2009 (20:18)

    I realize this blog post is now dated, but I just wanted to say that, although I’m just beginning, I’m trying to do just this in sociology at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (almost went to LSE though). Anyway, thanks for the prior contributions. If anyone thinks of anything else along these lines I’d love to hear about it.