New Directions in Culture and Cognition (Conference Announcement)

PROGRAM: New Directions in Culture and Cognition, Saturday, March 19, 2016 (PDF version: ESS 2016 Program)

Karen A. Cerulo, Rutgers University

Daina Cheyenne Harvey, College of Holy Cross
9:15-10:00AM: Welcome and Coffee

10:15-11:45AM: Theorizing Thought

Presider: Wayne Brekhus, Department of Sociology, 312 Middlebush Hall, Columbia, MO 65211-6100,


1) Karen Cerulo, Department of Sociology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08903, Culture and Embodied Cognition In this paper, I summarize the state of knowledge on embodied cognition and I suggest areas in which embodied cognition theory could inform the sociological study of cognition. I use some examples from my own work to illustrate my points.

2) Omar Lizardo, Department of Sociology, Notre Dame University, South Bend, IN,
A Plea for Social Mechanisms in Culture and Cognition Research: A Multilevel Systems Approach

3) Orlando Patterson, Department of Sociology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA,
The significance of declarative and procedural memory for understanding cultural knowledge and practice.

4) Sameer B. Srivastava, Hass Management of Organizations Group, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA,
Fitting In or Standing Out? The Tradeoffs of Structural and Cultural Embeddedness A recurring theme in sociological research is the tradeoff between fitting in and standing out. Prior work examining this tension has tended to take either a network structural or a cultural perspective. We instead fuse these two traditions to develop a theory of how structural and cultural embeddedness jointly relate to individual attainment within organizations. Given that organizational culture is hard to observe, we develop a novel approach to assessing individuals’ cultural fit with their colleagues in an organization based on the language expressed in internal email communications. Drawing on a unique data set that includes a corpus of 10.25 million email messages exchanged over five years among 601 employees in a high-technology firm, we
find that network constraint impedes, while cultural fit promotes, individual attainment. More importantly, we find evidence of a tradeoff between the two forms of embeddedness: cultural fit benefits individuals with low network constraint (i.e., brokers), while network constraint promotes attainment for those with low cultural fit.

12:00PM to 1:30PM: Measuring Culture and Cognition

Presider: Gabe Ignatow, Nicholas Evangelopoulos and Kelly Roberts, University of North Texas, 1155 Union Circle #311157, Denton, TX 76203-5017,


1) Gabe Ignatow, Nicholas Evangelopoulos and Kelly Roberts, University of North Texas, 1155 Union Circle #311157, Denton, TX 76203-5017,
Text-based Measurement of Situated Cognition in Organizations Current social science methods for evaluating situated cognition in organizations are based on either qualitative analysis of interview transcripts and open-ended survey items, or else quantitative analysis of Likert-type survey items. To combine several of the advantages of these approaches while addressing a number of their weaknesses, such as reliability concerns and limited scalability for qualitative methods, and validity concerns for quantitative methods, we develop an open-ended survey instrument that yields user-generated textual responses that can be analyzed using text mining tools and text analysis methods. The survey instrument and text mining tools are used to analyze 1) differences in perceptions and definitions of obstacles to women’s advancement in STEM/SBS departments at the University of North Texas based on institutional position and gender, and 2) changes in problem understandings over time. Our analysis is grounded in, and contributes to, three related social science literatures: cognitive sociology, cross-disciplinary research on situated cognition in organizations, and research on gender and situated cognition.

2) Mary Beth Fallon Hunzaker, Duke University, Department of Sociology, Box 90088, Durham, NC 27708-0088, mbf15@soc.duke.eduMapping Cultural Schemas of Welfare and Poverty The subfield of cultural sociology has long been fraught with debate over whether and how sociologists ought to go about measuring culture. In his influential review article, DiMaggio (1997) pointed out the barriers these operationalization issues pose to cultural sociology as a cumulative theoretical enterprise. As a corrective, he proposed that operationalization (and theorization) in cultural sociology stood to benefit from incorporating insights from the cognitive sciences regarding cultural processes. Arguably the most influential export from this work has been the schema concept, which now holds a central place in current theory and research in cultural sociology. In this study, I develop and test a new concept-association-based method for collecting schema data from individuals in order to construct a corresponding conceptual association network measure of cultural schemas (consonant with the connectionist models upon which current sociological schema theory is based). As a test case, I examine between-group differences in U.S. liberal and conservative schemas of poverty. Preliminary results suggest that even strong partisan liberal/Democrat and conservative/Republican schemas of poverty are characterized by large overlaps. However, these overlaps are punctuated by a few salient
differences—the liberals’ counterbalancing structural-cause anchor and starkly different between-group associations with minority identities.

3) Terrence McDonnell, Department of Sociology, Notre Dame University, South Bend, IN,
Productive Methods in the Study of Culture and Cognition This paper further develops and extends the concept of “Productive Methods” (McDonnell 2014). Productive methods are methods that observe people creating cultural objects. Observing the process of how people produce objects can reveal difficult to access cognitive processes, including categorization and category development, automatic and deliberative cognition, sensory-motor schema, tacit knowledge, and resonance. Productive methods methods work best when people are asked to produce objects in groups, when people are tasked with a problem to solve, and when both behavior, discursive observations, and the ultimate objects are collected and analyzed. The paper compares and contrasts innovative research that incorporate productive methods to identify how best to use these methods to measure concepts important to current research in culture and cognition.

4) Andrew Miles, William G. Davis Building, Room DV-3217, University of Toronto Mississauga, 3359 Mississauga Road, Mississauga, Ontario L5L 1C6, Canada;
Measuring Automatic Cognition: A Comparison of Three Measures and Their Practical Utility for Sociological Research In recent years, sociologists have become increasingly interested in the deliberative/automatic divide in cognitive processing, but have yet to agree on a way to measure automatic cognition. We address the problem by comparing three survey-based approaches to measuring automatic cognition applied to a widespread and influential cultural construct – political attitudes. We administered forced choice survey responses, forced choice responses given while attention is distracted, and an affective misattribution procedure (AMP) to an online sample of respondents, with the goal if determining which measure best taps automatic political attitudes, and how far behind the other measures lag. We assess the utility of each measure in predicting the automatic cognitive contribution to behavior during a voting task. Results indicate that all three measures tap automatic cognition, but that the AMP has the strongest relationship to the automatic processes underlying voting behavior. We also show that the practical barriers to implementing the AMP in surveys can be partially overcome by administering the AMP to a subset of respondents and “filling in” scores for other respondents using multiple imputation. These results indicate that sociologists can measure automatically processed cultural constructs in a straightforward, cost-effective way that can be integrated with existing online and survey-based data collection strategies.

5) Hana Shepherd, Dept. of Sociology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08903,
Can Innovative Analyses of Attitudes Improve Prediction of Behavior?: Conceptualizing Cognitive Schemas and Fertility-related Behavior
Social scientists have long struggled with the difficulty of predicting individual-level fertility outcomes using attitudinal measures. This study applies new methods of analysis to improve the utility of attitudinal data in predicting fertility-related behaviors, and draws on models of cognitive processes and structures that reflect advances in scientific knowledge about cognition and behavior (e.g., Bachrach 2014; Bachrach and Morgan 2013; Johnson-Hanks et al. 2011). We use an innovative conceptualization of attitudes that draws on advances in psychology, using the insight that attitude measures are meaningful in relation to other attitude measures, and thus consider patterns of relationships between attitude measures as a proxy for patterns of cognitive associations. We use two types of methods to analyze fertility-related attitudinal data in order to group survey respondents who think similarly about fertility: Latent Class Analysis, which creates latent groups based on sharing similar patterns of responses across a series of variables, and Relational Class Analysis (Goldberg 2013), which identifies subgroups of respondents who share similar relationships among their responses. Using data from the Relationship Dynamics and Social Life study, we use these methods to distinguish among respondents who give the same answers to some survey items but who think about fertility in fundamentally different ways. We describe the patterns of cognitive associations and sociodemographic characteristics of the groups identified. We then use these groupings to determine whether these methods predict a behavioral outcome—contraceptive use—better than do conventional methods of analyzing attitude data.

1:45-3:15PM: Interdisciplinary Dialogs on Cognition: Learning from one another

Presider: Karen A. Cerulo, Rutgers University, Department of Sociology, New Brunswick, NJ 08903,


1) Maria Islas, University of Denver, Frontier Hall 347, 2155 S. Race Street, Denver, CO 80208, Karen Danna, Department of Sociology, County College of Morris, 214 Center Grove Road Randolph, NJ,
“It all starts with the social actor”: Lessons learned from interdisciplinary research in culture and cognition” In this paper, two sociologists recount their separate experiences researching culture and cognition from an interdisciplinary perspective. They begin with the base assumption that sociological discussions of agency demand an understanding of cognitive process. The authors describe the similarities and differences in their research experiences, using their empirical work to highlight both what they have learned from cognitive researchers who work outside of the sociological canon, as well as what sociologists can bring to the larger interdisciplinary conversations about culture and cognition. They conclude that an understanding of the texture and complexity of action as situated in the context of which it happens is a major contribution of sociologists to the larger field of study, but one that cannot be effectively acknowledged as long as it remains distant from interdisciplinary conversations about the mind and the brain.

2) Jacob Strandell, Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen, Nørregade 10, DK-1165 Copenhagen,
The Cultural Schema: Toward Conceptual Compatibility in Culture-Cognition Interaction Research By using insights from cognitive science to study cultural phenomena, sociologists have recently joined the interdisciplinary project of unraveling the black box of culture-cognition interaction. This is promising, but the conceptual chasm between cognitive science and cultural theory remains an obstacle to a broader engagement from cultural sociology. This chasm creates an illusion of incommensurability and mutual irrelevance. The previously suggested notion of cultural schemas, comparable with cognitive schemas, could be a powerful conceptual “adapter” between the divergent frameworks if clearly conceptualized and related to established concepts of culture. In addition to facilitating interdisciplinary compatibility with cognitive science, a well-developed concept of cultural schemas could also provide an integrative umbrella framework for cultural sociology. However, the full potential of the concept can only be realized if it is conceptualized as a supra-individual analogue to the cognitive schema, rather than as a type of cognitive schema. Doing so maintains mutual compatibility without subsuming one under the other. This is achieved in this paper by conceptually separating supra-individual cultural schemas from their neurocognitive microfoundation and developing a model of this relationship in which cultural schemas supervene on cognitive schemas. The action-mechanisms of different types of cultural schemas are specified by reframing the cultural dual-process model of Vaisey (2009). A discipline-neutral language is suggested to improve interdisciplinary compatibility, to reflect the interaction of the processes, and to incorporate post-structuralist theory. Together, the cultural schema and cultural dual-process model closely reflect their cognitive counterparts without reducing culture to cognition or abandoning established cultural theory.

3) Paul Thagard Philosophy Department and Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1
Explaining Culture Requires New Theories of Cognition and Communication A cognitive theory of culture that applies to socially important practices such as religion should explain how: (1) culture is embodied in sensory-motor activity, but often transcendent in assuming supernatural agents such as spirits and gods; (2) culture is both cognitive and emotional; and (3) culture operates in individual minds as beliefs and emotions, but is also shared through communication among individuals. A new neural theory, the semantic pointer architecture developed by Chris Eliasmith, can be extended to explain all these aspects of cultural cognition

4) Stephen Vaisey and Lauren Valentino, Duke University, Department of Sociology, Box 90088, Durham, NC 27708-0088, ,
Pronoun Use and Cultural Models of the Self Cultural theories often distinguish between individualist and collectivist moral orientations. Based on previous research in cognitive psychology, we argue that it is how people see themselves in relation to the world (more independent or interdependent) that underlies this dichotomy. While past research has demonstrated the link between individualism/collectivism
and various outcomes, this research has generally relied on explicit self-reports. We address this limitation using an implicit measure of self-construal based on pronoun counts in a nationally representative sample of interview data. We use this measure investigate the link between different models of the self and outcomes including social behavior and network structure.

3:15-3:30PM: Refreshments

3:30-5:00PM: New Approaches in the Empirical Study of Culture and Cognition

Presider: Daina Cheyenne Harvey, College of Holy Cross, 1 College Street, Worcester, MA 01610,


1) Joseph Bayer , University of Michigan, Communication Studies, 105 S. State St. Ann Arbor, MI 48109,
Connection Cues: Activating the Norms and Habits of Social Connectedness Staying “connected” has become a societal norm and a personal habit. The goal of this talk is to explain how individuals internalize—and activate—social connectedness during daily life. As such, we take a sociocognitive approach to integrate perspectives on implicit societal expectations (connection norms) and automatic individual behavior (connection habits). Based on this framework, we present a model for how non-conscious triggers to check a mobile device, or connection cues, affect the flow of communication. The model outlines types of connection cues, factors that moderate sensitivity to connection norms, and activation paths for connection habits. Altogether, connection cues determine when and where individuals “connect” through automatic perception.

2) Allesandra Lembo, Rich Moore and John Martin, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL,
Formal Procedures for Assessing Qualitative Experience in In-Depth Interviews We here describe some successful formal procedures that can be embedded in in-depth or survey interviews to help gauge cultural experience. By nature of the procedures—card sorts, for example—data are produced that better lend themselves to comparison across interviewee than is generally the case with conventional interview data. We show that carefully guided interviewing can lead to relatively unambiguous, if somewhat thin, data on extremely complex and/or subtle cases of the development of meaning-orientations to the world via first person experience. We use cases that span a continuum of the very abstract to the very concrete, giving examples of interviewees’ conception of “religion” as a complex social object, and of their qualitative experience of music. The formal techniques give additional insight when put in a life-history context, in which experience and trajectory and seen as dual.

3) Hwa-Yen Huang, Department of Sociology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08903,
Shocked by Normal Crises: A Cognitive Sociology of the “All Other Things Being Equal” Assumption |My paper begins from a disjuncture between culture and everyday practice regarding crisis events, e.g. disasters, collective violence, personal loss, displacement, etc. On the one hand, members of contemporary societies are highly aware of the possibility and reality of crisis event. In this sense, crisis events are often seem as normal parts of life. On the other hand, survivors of crisis events often speak of being unprepared for such events. That is, they are often “shocked” when they are “suddenly” confronted by particular crisis events. Cultural sociologists have pointed to cultural structures that impede our preparation for crisis events, e.g. positive asymmetry about the future (Cerulo 2006) and probabilistic thinking in risk science (Clarke 2005). Drawing upon memoirs of illness, I examine the everyday sociocognitive practices that make such cultural structures plausible. Following Garfinkel (1967), I argue that our unpreparedness for crisis events is connected to the everyday assumption of “all other things being equal,” or the ceteris paribus assumption. Further, inspired by discussions of the ceteris paribus assumption among philosophers of science, I argue that the “all other things being equal” assumption is supported by sociocognitive practices that render phenomenal reality “stable” as well as “invariant.”

4) Jason Torkelson, Department of Sociology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08903,
Foregrounding Relinquished Identities: The Potential Significance of Approaching Identification in Reverse
Issues pertaining to elective identity have occupied a central place within much cultural theory and social science since post-World War II commodification transformations in particular. Yet, only scant attention has been paid to the fuller theoretical and empirical implications of relinquished identities in this time. Ebaugh’s seminal charting of “role exit” aside, where there is well-defined conceptual sensitivity to “ex-hood” in predominant identity theories, it remains somewhat obscured by a “forward-looking” bent in both postmodern takes on ambivalence, parody, and reflexive consumption cycles (e.g. Bauman, Baudrillard) and modernist emphases on quests for identity entrenchment/authenticity (e.g. Giddens). To the extent these broader theoretical orientations indeed prevail over inquiry into identity in cultural studies and the social sciences, it indicates that the phenomenological dimensions of ex-identity have been conceptually lagging somewhat in theory and empirical research. Here, I extend Schutz’s treatment of “intentionality”, “meaning-context”, and “typification of experience” to the domains of identity (de)sedimentation and narrative retrospection using data from 44 interviews with individuals who have categorically disaffiliated with straightedge — a clean living, mostly youth-based subculture based upon a pledge to strict abstinence from intoxicants — as a means of sketching a preliminary research programme for approaching ex-identity. In this vein, analysis of the data shows that engaging the time “after” identity as an analytic starting point can potentially complement the present “forward-looking” impulse toward the more active components of identification where: 1) in line with Weberian inquiry, the subjective animation of an identity node in fuller retrospect can extend the range of meanings the analyst can gather from it; 2) likewise, broader orientational shifts in disposition toward constituting identity as a project better accessed from the standpoint of hindsight can be gleaned from subjects’ narratives; and 3) certain relinquished identities may be shown to nonetheless indelibly mark the “meaning-context” through which later life experience is lodged despite no longer possessing schematic primacy