Culture in Mind: Toward a Sociology of Culture and Cognition

By Karen A. Cerulo | Go to book overview

Building Bridges: An Introduction

In introducing each section of this volume, I have followed a deliberate plan. I have approached each topic with a binary lens, first providing overviews of cognitive scientific knowledge on a subject, and then raising the problems and omissions that cultural sociologists see in cognitive scientists’ approach. Initially, my strategy surely underscores the striking differences in these two disciplines. But ultimately, I hope that annunciating such distinctions will create an opportunity for rich interdisciplinary dialogue.

Can such a dialogue realistically ensue? The question seems prudent. For comparing the research foci of cognitive science and cultural sociology conjures an image of two independent, intellectual islands. Cognitive science approaches thought as the product of electrochemical and neural factors; cultural sociology approaches thought as the product of situated interaction. Cognitive science searches for universal mechanisms of information processing; cultural sociology searches for the ways in which social settings particularize such mechanisms. Cognitive science seeks the generalizeable rules that enable the organization and storage of thought; cultural sociologists seek ways in which such rules are differentiated by sociocultural context. Can one identify common ground in these seemingly contrary agendas? Are there intellectual links and parallels sufficient to trigger a fruitful exchange of ideas? In this final section of Culture in Mind, three renowned scholars of cognition address these very questions. In so doing, each author proposes new and exciting foundations for interdisciplinary paradigms of cognitive research.

The section begins with a dialogue between cognitive psychologist Jerome Wakefield and cultural sociologist Allan V. Horwitz. Mental illness represents the topic of discussion. In Chapter 13, Wakefield initiates the dialogue, proposing a model that simultaneously applies cognitive science and cultural sociology to the analysis of mental illness. Specifically, Wakefield’s model—the “Foucault Sandwich”—considers both the universal and culturally relative aspects of mental disorders. In

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