Bartlett, Culture and Cognition

Bartlett, Culture and Cognition

Bartlett, Culture and Cognition

Bartlett, Culture and Cognition

Synopsis

This collection brings together contemporary applications of Frederic Bartlett's work in cognitive psychology as well as in areas in which Bartlett has been largely ignored: sociocultural psychology and the history and philosophy of science.

Excerpt

Sir Frederic Bartlett was plainly one of the great psychologists of his generation-great in stature as a scholar, an extraordinarily appealing and charismatic human being, gifted in the arts of getting people to work easily together, wonderfully generous in spirit, lucid in discourse. He was also one of the most British Englishmen I have ever known, whether in carriage, habits, tastes or loyalties. And he could never quite resist drawing his examples of everyday behaviour from cricket, one of the least transparent forms of British life, at least to an outsider. Yet, I still cherish the memory of his describing to me with stunning acumen the psychological (and indeed cultural complexities) of an umpire's call of 'leg before wicket'-as a 'real' phenomenon, as the outcome of the umpire's decision processes or as a 'cultural event' in the minds of spectators at a cricket match. I was a visiting member of Bartlett's college, St. Johns, in the mid-1950s. Sir Frederic, walking the college quads or chatting in Combination Room after dinner, became for me as much a defining feature of Cambridge life as the College bells striking the quarter hours.

Yet, for all that, he was an anomaly and remains one even today. Not a quaint or eccentric anomaly, but one that seems to be virtually prototypical of the broad field of scholarly inquiry to which he devoted his engaged life: the 'human sciences', as we now call them, psychology, anthropology, neuropsychology and the rest. His 1932 Remembering still stands today as a monument to his courage and wisdom in trying to impose some unity on that vast domain. His later uncertainties, 'unsteadinesses', even inconsistencies with regard to psychological explanation seem, in retrospect, not so much personal anomalies as ones that are, as it were, endemic to the human sciences and, most particularly, to psychology itself. His intellectual life was so fraught with the very same puzzlingly deep issues that we live with today that, indeed, even the authors of this volume in his

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