Social Mindscapes: An Invitation to Cognitive Sociology

Social Mindscapes: An Invitation to Cognitive Sociology

Social Mindscapes: An Invitation to Cognitive Sociology

Social Mindscapes: An Invitation to Cognitive Sociology

Synopsis

Why do we eat sardines, but never goldfish; ducks, but never parrots? Why does adding cheese make a hamburger a "cheeseburger" whereas adding ketchup does not make it a "ketchupburger"? By the same token, how do we determine which things said at a meeting should be included in the minutes and which ought to be considered "off the record" and officially disregarded?

In this wide-ranging and provocative book, Eviatar Zerubavel argues that cognitive science cannot answer these questions, since it addresses cognition on only two levels: the individual and the universal. To fill the gap between the Romantic vision of the solitary thinker whose thoughts are the product of unique experience, and the cognitive-psychological view, which revolves around the search for the universal foundations of human cognition, Zerubavel charts an expansive social realm of mind--a domain that focuses on the conventional, normative aspects of the way we think.

With witty anecdote and revealing analogy, Zerubavel illuminates the social foundation of mental actions such as perceiving, attending, classifying, remembering, assigning meaning, and reckoning th

Excerpt

My interest in studying cognition goes back to 1970, when I first read about human perception in a social psychology class in college. Though immediately fascinated by the topic, I was initially discouraged by my belief that it was not something that I would ever be able to study as a sociologist. The possibility of integrating MY interests in the social and the mental became somewhat clearer a year later, when I read Karl Mannheim Ideology and Utopia andPeter Berger and Thomas Luckmann The Social Construction of Reality and discovered the existence of a "sociology of knowledge." Yet it was not until I came to the University of Pennsylvania the following year to study with Erving Goffman, who was about to complete Frame Analysis, that I got my first close look at what a sociology of thinking might look like.

As a researcher, I first approached the mind through my work in the sociology of time on social frameworks of temporal reference, the temporal differentiation of the sacred from the profane, and the role of calendars in collective memory. At the same time, as a teacher, I found myself launching a far more ambitious project of trying to develop a general sociological framework for dealing with cognitive matters. In 1980 1 introduced for the first time (at the University of Pittsburgh) a course titled "Cognitive Sociology," with which I have kept experimenting ever since then at Columbia University, the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and for the last eight years at Rutgers University. Only in 1987, however, did I begin to seriously consider writing a comprehensive introduction to this field, and only in 1993 did I finally decide to do so, a decision . . .

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