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Cognition, Action, and the Senses

Mon, August 13, 8:30 to 10:10am, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Floor: Level 5, Salon H

Abstract

In the ongoing quest to find new and better analytical tools to explicate social action, sociologists have most recently turned to the dual process models developed by cognitive and social psychologists (e.g., Chaiken and Trope 1999; Evans and Stanovich 2013). Designed to explain the two basic types of cognitive processing (one autonomous, and the other requiring controlled attention), dual process models have become a natural partner for sociological theories of action, with their interest in parsing dispositional and deliberative types of action. The consistency between the premises of dual process models and practice theory, especially Bourdieu’s, with their emphasis on the dispositional nature of perception and action, and the embodiment of knowledge, is arguably one of the reasons why dual process models have gained such popularity in sociology. Dual process models have thus bolstered interest in subconscious thinking and action, bringing along attention to embodiment. Such attention, however, has been mostly confined to the internalization of explicit knowledge into practical reason through habitual practice. That is, analytic attention has largely remained within the confines of mental capacities (and the most closely associated senses of sight and hearing), overlooking the role of the other bodily senses in cognition and action. In this paper, I will argue that an understanding of how sensorial perception informs cognition and action is not only necessary for a sociology of culture and cognition worthy of its name but, more specifically, that it is instrumental for redressing some of the pitfalls that have followed from the somewhat indiscriminate application of dual process models to sociological research and theory.

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