Read Zerubavel's syllabus for "Cognitive Sociology" text version


Webpage for Chapter 17. "Culture, Cognition, and Parenthood" Ralph LaRossa, Wendy Simonds, and Donald C. Reitzes

Cognitive Pluralism, Cognitive Sociology, and the Sociology of Knowledge The central premise of our chapter, as we indicate, is that a cognitive pluralistic approach to mental processes can contribute significantly to the development of family social science. This approach is in contrast to two other approaches, namely cognitive individualism and cognitive universalism. Cognitive pluralism is closely related to cognitive sociology (Zerubavel, 1997) and the sociology of knowledge (see Mannheim, 1929; also Berger & Luckmann, 1966). We chose to use the terms, cognitive pluralism and cognitive social science (rather than cognitive sociology or the sociology of knowledge), to acknowledge the theoretical and substantive work on culture and cognition that has been done by a variety of cognitively-oriented scholars in the social sciences--not just in sociology, but also in anthropology, history, social and community psychology, education, child and adult development, cultural studies, international studies, American studies, African-American studies, Women's studies, and Men's studies.

Cognitive Acts Although cognitive scientists generally would agree that perceiving, focusing, classifying, symbolizing, timing, and remembering are crucial mental processes, some choose to break down cognition in other ways. Karen Cerulo (2002), for example, prefers a four-stage typology. In analyzing thought, cognitive scientists typically invoke a series of sequential stages. These stages include the human brain's sensation and attention to sensory stimuli, its ability to discriminate and classify such input, the ways in which the brain represents and integrates information, and finally, its ability to store and retrieve data. From the cognitive scientist's perspective, understanding these stages, including the specific operations that occur at each stage, holds the key to comprehending fully the process of human thought (p. 3). Though seemingly different, Cerulo's typology essentially includes the six cognitive acts that we discuss. Our decision to employ a six-category typology draws on the concepts that Eviatar Zerubavel (1997) specified.


The Social Construction of Reality Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann's (1966) theoretical treatise on the sociology of knowledge offers a classical view of how social realities are constructed, objectivated, and sometimes reified. Their argument basically synthesizes the ideas of Karl Marx, Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, George Herbert Mead, and Alfred Schutz. Objectivation is the sense that intersubjective worlds are objective facticities. (Recall Emile Durkheim's (1895) axiom, "social facts are things.") In the case of institutional structures long in place, this sense comes from structures having an extended history (antedating when some of us were born) and from their seemingly having coercive power ("through the control mechanisms that usually are attached to the most important of them," say Berger and Luckmann, p. 60). Intersubjective worlds transmitted from one generation to the next also are more likely to be perceived as "out there," i.e., external. It is important to note that objectivation can take place over a short period of time. Consider how a course syllabus, created by an instructor a few days before the term began, seems in the weeks that follow to externally dictate how the course should progress. Reification "can be described as an extreme step in the process of objectivation, whereby the objectivated world loses its comprehensibility as a human enterprise and becomes fixated as a non-human, non-humanizable inert facticity." Examples of reification would be when human products are perceived as "facts of nature, results of cosmic laws, or manifestations of divine will" (Berger & Luckmann, 1966, p. 89). Reification is central to the six cognitive acts. Perceptions thought to be "sacred" in one community may not be perceived as such in another community. Cultural boundaries believed to be inviolate by some people may be easily transgressed by others.

Selected Web Pages Related to Culture and Cognition

Eviatar Zerubavel's syllabus for "Cognitive Sociology"

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Paul DiMaggio's syllabus for "Culture and Cognition."


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REFERENCES Berger, Peter, & Luckmann, Thomas. (1966). The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. New York: Anchor/Doubleday. Cerulo, Karen A. (Ed.) (2002). Culture in mind: Toward a sociology of culture and cognition. New York: Routledge. Durkheim, Emile (1982 [1895]). The rules of the sociological method. New York: Macmillan. Mannheim, Karl. (1936[1929]). Ideology and utopia: An introduction to the sociology of knowledge. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World. Zerubavel, Eviatar (1997). Social mindscapes: An invitation to cognitive sociology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Zerubavel's syllabus for "Cognitive Sociology"

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