Thought and Society

26 May 2022 16:26

Not thinking about society, but how society and culture shape thought. Especially collective cognition: accomplishing cognitive taskes en masse. ("Thought" is broader than "cognition," which has connotations of knowledge; but thought can be arbitrarily mangled and wrong and senseless, and frequently is.)

Fundamental attribution error vs. cultural change. Social psychologists speak of the "fundamental attribution error", which people's tendency, when explaining human behavior, to give too much weight to relatively permanent personal characteristics (honesty, courage, lasciviousness, rationality), and not enough to the particular situation of the actors. Query: how much apparent change in culture, "mentalities", etc., is really due to changes in the type and distribution of the situations people find themselves in? Consider e.g. the common claim that modernity (or industrial society, capitalism, etc.) makes people see themselves as self-regarding individuals, whereas those in traditional agrarian societies saw themselves as members of a community. Even granting that there is a genuine behavioral difference, might this not be because, under modern conditions, people have more occasion to act individualistically? --- Might this provide a non-mysterious mechanism for social structure to (appear to) influence culture?

Update, December 2012: the thought in the paragraph above, from several years ago (I forget exactly how many) is essentially what G. E. R. Lloyd argues for his book Demystifying Mentalities, though without mentioning the fundamental attribution error.

See also: Analogy and Metaphor; Cognitive Science; Historical Materialism; Intellectual Standards and Competence; Memes; Psychoceramics; Scientific Thinking; Social Construction of Reality; Sociology; Sociology of Science; Universal Signs, Images and Symbols