October 14, 2019

Cognition, Culture, and Complexity: Modeling the Emergence of Shared Social Realities from Individual Mental Representation

Lynette Shaw, University of Michigan

The cultures we belong to affect far more than our practices and beliefs - they also fundamentally shape how we perceive the world, each other, and ourselves. Many rich theoretical traditions in the social sciences and humanities have emphasized these “socially constructed” aspects of our experienced realities. To date, however, insights in this arena have largely resisted formal specification and modeling. In this talk, I will show how this historical barrier can be transcended by using insights from complex systems to theorize how the individual, automatic cognition responsible for reflexive sensemaking in situations (i.e. mental representation and associative processing) can, in social contexts, account for the emergence of shared social realities and a suite of other recognizable cultural dynamics. I conclude the talk by discussing how this perspective can be used to build further analytical extensions and to develop new approaches to the empirical study of social construction.