Cognitive Anthropology

Mental models: A mental model is primarily from psychology and cognitive science. The idea is that the mind creates "small scale models" of reality, almost like a simulation, that allows it to predict events. Anthropologists stress the similarity of models within a culture, and differences between cultures. They must be flexible enough to accomodate variation. They must filter perception to allow quick decisions and avoid behaviors that have created negative results such as social disapproval.

Gregory Bateson: Bateson combined the idea of mental processes (not really models) with cybernetics. In the case of positive feedback (illustrated by the Latmul in New Guinea), schiznogenesis created differences (in this case exaggerated gender distinctions) through a sort of viscious circle. In the case of negative feedback (illustrated by Bali) there was a kind of stasis (suppression of emotional excess in many situations in childhood, leading to cultural characteristics).

Brad Shore: In contradition to Geertz, Shore notes that there are plenty of mental processes that involve culture but could be seen as private. In situations of embarassement or shame or other negative emotions, for example, some reactions show an alternative cultural model (eg you try to shrug it off as a joke, you become a clown); some ideosyncratic to individuals. Shore emphasizes the presence of scripts and frames, and notes how language can offer a window into many of these internal processes.








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