Biosociology: An Emerging Paradigm

By Anthony Walsh | Go to book overview
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Chapter 5
Intelligence and Society

Constitutional differences in personality are recognized in differences in the processing of sensory information, in intelligence, temperament, and motivation. These constitutional features of persons interact with lessons learned. . . . Questions can be asked about how one learns and about what one learns.

-- Gwynn Nettler

If there is one proposition with which all sociologists would agree, it is that the human neonate has no preprogrammed values, attitudes, or beliefs and that these mental abstractions, the behaviors associated with them, and a million other things must be learned in social interaction. Human learning requires cognition, and cognition makes use of symbols--letters, words, pictures, formulas, and so on--that stand for the physical aspects of our environment and the relationships among them. Sociologists and anthropologists are interested in what we learn (the contents of our cultures), and psychologists are interested in how we learn (the associative methods humans use to acquire adaptive knowledge). The differential ability or capacity to learn- to make efficient use of symbols--is studied by psychologists and behavioral geneticists, but mainstream behavioral scientists have rarely considered this aspect of learning when exploring the whats and hows of becoming social beings.

Almost everyone learns the basic requirements of social participation, but the rewards of a modern complex society go to those with the ability to assimilate a culture forever in flux and forever moving in the direction of broadening scope and deepening complexity. To the extent that this is true, the issue

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