SOC 388 March 15 2012
Notes on the board below:
Sociology of Perception
Web of socio-mental affiliations
Focusing / ignoring
Rigid / fuzzy / flexible mindedness
Starting new discussion in the course on cognitive sociology. Different from what we have seen before.
Building upon old ideas but its different. Particularly interested in cognition patterns of thinking
Cognition is just another word for thinking
Key idea - Looking at patterns of thinking that are culturally shared
It was founded in late 90’s in the U.S. by Zerubavel, a major figure (godfather) in cognitive sociology.
Lays the foundation for this approach in the chapter we read. Chapter is like a manifesto to CS (cognitive
CS = cognitive sociology for the rest of the ntoes
Builds on 2 theories we have already read in this class
(1) Goffman Goffman is looking more at the outward patters and projections but Zerubavel
concerned with more ‘inward’ or what goes in our minds/ what we are thinking
(2) Durkheim notions of the collective consciousness. Durkheim certainly comes through in Zerubavel
works. Similar notions of share ideas / norms among a group of people
Zerubavel laying foundation for basic cognitive acts such as remembering, meaning, classifying etc.(
basically all the things we do in our minds) The basic things we do in our head to make sense of world
around us. Previous readings not interested in the nitty gritty of thinking like ZerubavelCS looking at how groups of people construct meaning. People learn meaning its not innate. Begins
when we are children.
We can deconstruct this meaning. This is what CS is trying to do, unpack this meaning. Try to see the
patterns of thinking and how meaning and cultural are made
Social mental conventions norms and things we learn from others. Conventions in the sense they are
conventional. Its in our minds and its social.
Mind is hot topic today – lots of research in lots of different disciplines. Sociology is different than lets
say science or psychology – it brings a different perspective to study of the mind.
Zerubavel says we can look at the mind on three levels
(1) Individual level traditional understanding of the mind in the West. Some people are geniuses,
some are creative. Explained based on individual characteristics and patterns. Seen as innate
characteristics of someone’s mind. Smart dumb etc.
(2) Universal level common in sciences. Disciplines looking at the mechanics, patterns, neurons,
signals, parts and hardware of the mind. All the technical and physical components
(3)Social level patterns of thinking that are social and cultural nature. CS is focused on this level
Proff keeps stressing the point that humans innately want to categorize things. That’s how we make
sense of the world, through categories. Sounds like Durkheim here. Profane vs sacred and the need to
categorize into these two worlds.
CS draws on a lot of different kind of data. Not just interview or census data but combining the two. Also
important to do comparative study. Then you can see if something is socially or culturally constructed or
what not. By looking at people from different cultural the patterns may start to emergeCS suggests attention and emotion are socially and culturally scripted. They are shared and not innate in
any way. E.g. embarrassment, shame , humor, all shard within a culture. We learn emotions from
others. We learn what to give attention to and what to ignore from others.
e.g. of kid going to the zoo and not looking at animals but the fences. Basically when we go to the zoo
we don’t think about looking at the animals we just do. That’s why we are th