Cognition and Culture

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Course Description: 

This course explores the problematic relationship between culture and cognition, the various models that try to grasp them together and areas of study that reveal their interrelatedness. Despite the fact that intellectual and disciplinary histories attempted to separate mind from culture, there has been a growing recognition on both sides that human cognition cannot be studied independently of the cultural context in which it develops, and that cultural knowledge and practices cannot be studied without reference to the cognitive organisation and development of individual minds. Pioneering attempts to translate this into interdisciplinary research programs have gained increasing recognition, leading to promising areas of interdisciplinary research under the 'social mind' frame. The course will cover this thematic in a series of seminars and invited lectures with prominent scholars in the field. 

For this purpose, the course is structured around four thematic sections, each developing over three sessions:  

1. Enculturated minds: Does culture frame how we think? To what extent?  

2. Cultural transmission: How do ideas and practices spread in a community so as to form a cultural phenomenon?  

3. Cognition outside of the mind: can the ideas and analyses of cognitive science be applied to explain cultural practices and social organisation more broadly?  

4. Cross-Disciplinary studies and methodologies: we explore cross-disciplinary approaches to morality, trust and cooperation, essential dimensions of human sociality and culture, main methodological issues and ways to address them.

Learning Outcomes: 

By the end of the course students will:  

A. have advanced knowledge of several theories and research programs that attempt to elucidate the relation between cognition and culture  

B. develop an understanding of the particularities of anthropological and psychological approaches and their potential convergences in empirical research  

C. be able to analyze socio-cultural phenomena by drawing on cross-disciplinary methodologies  

D. develop an interdisciplinary perspective on the foundations of human sociality and culture. 


Each student will have to send in 2-3 short, relevant responses to readings during this course. The final grade is based on class participation (10%), written responses (30%), and a final essay or research paper of max. 2000 words (50%).