The rise of cognitive neuroscience is the most important scientific and intellectual development of the last thirty years. Findings pour forth, and major initiatives for brain research continue. The social sciences have responded to this development slowly--for good reasons. The implications of particular controversial findings, such as the discovery of mirror neurons, have been ambiguous, controversial within neuroscience itself, and difficult to integrate with conventional social science. Yet many of these findings, such as those of experimental neuro-economics, pose very direct challenges to standard social science. At the same time, however, the known facts of social science, for example about linguistic and moral diversity, pose a significant challenge to standard neuroscience approaches, which tend to focus on "universal" aspects of human and animal cognition.
A serious encounter between cognitive neuroscience and social science is likely to be challenging, and transformative, for both parties. Although a literature has developed on proposals to integrate neuroscience and social science, these proposals go in divergent directions. None of them has a developed conception of social life. This book surveys these issues, introduces the basic alternative conceptions both of the mental world and the social world, and show how, with sufficient modification, they can be fit together in plausible ways.
The book is not a "new theory " of anything, but rather an exploration of the critical issues that relate to the social aspects of cognition which expands the topic from the social neuroscience of immediate interpersonal interaction to the whole range of places where social variation interacts with the cognitive. The focus is on the conceptual problems produced by any attempt to take these issues seriously, and also on the new resources and considerations relevant to doing so. But it is also on the need for a revision of social theoretical concepts in order to utilize these resources. The book points to some conclusions, especially about how the process of what was known as socialization needs to be understood in cognitive science friendly terms. But there is no attempt to resolve the underlying issues within cognitive science, which will doubtless persist.
Stephen P. Turner is Distinguished University Professor at the University of South Florida. He has written on issues of cognitive and social science since the 1980s, incorporating philosophy and science studies in related areas, and publishing two collections of articles on these topics: Brains/Practices/Relativism and Understanding the Tacit, as well as a number of other articles and chapters. Dr. Turner is the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of twenty-five other books.
Research in the cognitive sciences has advanced significantly in recent decades. Computational cognitive modeling has profoundly changed the ways in which we understand cognition. Empirical research has progressed as well, offering new insights into many psychological phenomena. This book investigates the possibility of exploiting the successes of the cognitive sciences to establish a better foundation for the social sciences, including the disciplines of sociology, anthropology, economics, and political science. The result may be a new, powerful, integrative intellectual enterprise: the cognitive social sciences.
The book treats a range of topics selected to capture issues that arise across the social sciences, covering computational, empirical, and theoretical approaches. The chapters, by leading scholars in both the cognitive and the social sciences, explore the relationship between cognition and society, including such issues as methodologies of studying cultural differences; the psychological basis of politics (for instance, the role of emotion and the psychology of moral choices); cognitive dimensions of religion; cognitive approaches to economics; meta-theoretical questions on the possibility of the unification of social and cognitive sciences. Combining depth and breadth, the book encourages fruitful interdisciplinary interaction across many fields.
In Invisible Mind, Lasana Harris takes a social neuroscience approach to explaining the worst of human behavior. How can a person take part in racially motivated violence and then tenderly cradle a baby or lovingly pet a puppy? Harris argues that our social cognition—the ability to infer the mental states of another agent—is flexible. That is, we can either engage or withhold social cognition. If we withhold social cognition, we dehumanize the other person. Integrating theory from a range of disciplines—social, developmental, and cognitive psychology, evolutionary anthropology, philosophy, economics, and law—with neuroscience data, Harris explores how and why we engage or withhold social cognition. He examines research in these different disciplines and describes biological processes that underlie flexible social cognition, including brain, genetic, hormonal, and physiological mechanisms.
After laying out the philosophical and theoretical terrain, Harris explores examples of social cognitive ability in nonhumans and explains the evolutionary staying power of this trait. He addresses two motives for social cognition—prediction and explanation—and reviews cases of anthropomorphism (extending social cognition to entities without mental states) and dehumanization (withholding it from people with mental states). He discusses the relation of social cognition to the human/nonhuman distinction and to the evolution of sociality. He considers the importance of social context and, finally, he speculates about the implications of flexible social cognition in such arenas for human interaction as athletic competition and international disputes.
The book considers in detail a paradigm case: legal normativity as constructed by Hans Kelsen. This case exemplifies the problems with normativist arguments. But it also shows how normativism was constructed as an alternative to ordinary social science explanation. The normativist argument is that social science explanations themselves are forced to rely on normative conceptsÑminimally, on normative rationality and on a normative view of ‘concepts' themselves.
Empathic understanding of the reasoning and meanings of others, however, can solve the regress problems about meaning and rationality that are central to the appeal of normativism. This account has no need for a parallel normative world, and has a surprising and revealing lineage in the history of philosophy, as well as a basis in neuroscience.
What is neuroplasticity? Is it possible to change your brain? Norman Doidge’s inspiring guide to the new brain science explains all of this and more
An astonishing new science called neuroplasticity is overthrowing the centuries-old notion that the human brain is immutable, and proving that it is, in fact, possible to change your brain. Psychoanalyst, Norman Doidge, M.D., traveled the country to meet both the brilliant scientists championing neuroplasticity, its healing powers, and the people whose lives they’ve transformed—people whose mental limitations, brain damage or brain trauma were seen as unalterable. We see a woman born with half a brain that rewired itself to work as a whole, blind people who learn to see, learning disorders cured, IQs raised, aging brains rejuvenated, stroke patients learning to speak, children with cerebral palsy learning to move with more grace, depression and anxiety disorders successfully treated, and lifelong character traits changed. Using these marvelous stories to probe mysteries of the body, emotion, love, sex, culture, and education, Dr. Doidge has written an immensely moving, inspiring book that will permanently alter the way we look at our brains, human nature, and human potential.