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Book part
Publication date: 17 October 2011

Christian von Scheve

A neuroscientific turn has been diagnosed in several disciplines, but sociology has not yet undertaken this turn. While other social science disciplines are engaging in a…

Abstract

A neuroscientific turn has been diagnosed in several disciplines, but sociology has not yet undertaken this turn. While other social science disciplines are engaging in a lively discussion with the ‘new brain sciences’ and have established extensive collaboration, exchange between neuroscience and sociology is almost absent. Besides a general scepticism towards “reductionist” explanations, this is largely due to sociology focusing on its traditional role as observer and critic of current developments in science. In this chapter, I argue that this ‘sociology of neuroscience’ approach should be complemented by an increased attention to actual neuroscientific findings with respect to key theoretical concepts in sociology and social theory more generally. I discuss how contemporary neuroscience research can assist in sharpening and empirically refining our understanding of a number of micro-sociological concepts that often elude investigation with more traditional social science methods. I highlight the possible benefits and pitfalls of such endeavours by discussing the ‘neurosociology’ paradigm and sketch alternative ways of mutual engagement with the new brain sciences.

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Sociological Reflections on the Neurosciences
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84855-881-6

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Book part
Publication date: 19 October 2012

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Biosociology and Neurosociology
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78190-257-8

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Book part
Publication date: 19 October 2012

Jessica A. Leveto and Will Kalkhoff

Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to demonstrate how biosociologists can further the understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorders by combining neurology's knowledge…

Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to demonstrate how biosociologists can further the understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorders by combining neurology's knowledge of the brain with social scientific knowledge about paraverbal communication and interactional synchrony.

Findings – We theoretically analyze Autism Spectrum Disorders through the lens of neurosociology and develop a research agenda centered on relationships among brain function, interactional symmetry, and autism. We also derive an intervention model involving the artificial manipulation of speech communication. In our analysis we draw attention to multidisciplinary research on vocal and behavioral synchrony and demonstrate how this knowledge contributes to a neurosociological understanding of autism.

Research limitations/implications – We synthesize diverse programs of research from multiple fields and innovate a neurosociological approach to understanding biosocial interaction rituals in relation to autism. We discuss the potential use of “dichotic filtration” of speech to enhance communication efficacy for individuals with autism.

Practical implications – Our arguments suggest that the social difficulties faced by individuals with autism may be rooted in problems associated with the cerebral processing of paralanguage. As a potential remedy for these problems, we suggest an intervention method based on recent technological advancements stemming from decades of theoretical and empirical research.

Social implications – To the extent that the proposed intervention model proves successful, it will enhance the lives of individuals with autism and those with whom they interact by improving social communication and associated channels for creating social bonds.

Originality/value – This work is uniquely important as an example of how biosociologists might move “from bench to application” in the context of a cumulative program of interdisciplinary research, development, and technology transfer.

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Biosociology and Neurosociology
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78190-257-8

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Book part
Publication date: 20 October 2020

Seth Abrutyn and Omar Lizardo

Purpose – In recent decades, some sociologists have turned to evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and cognitive science to support, modify, and reconfigure existing social…

Abstract

Purpose – In recent decades, some sociologists have turned to evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and cognitive science to support, modify, and reconfigure existing social psychological theory. In this chapter, we build on this momentum by considering the relevance of current work in affective and cognitive neuroscience for understanding emotions and the self. Our principal aim is to enlarge the range of phenomena currently considered by sociologists who study emotion while showing how affective dynamics play an important role across most outcomes and processes of interest to social scientists.

Approach – We focus on the ways external social objects become essential to, and emotionally significant for, the self. To that end, we draw on ideas from phenomenology, pragmatism, classic symbolic interactionism, and dramaturgy. We show how basic affective systems graft on, build from, and extend current social psychological usages of emotions as well as the important sociological work being done on self, from both symbolic interactionist (SI) and identity theory (IT) perspectives. Finally, we turn to the promising directions in studying emotional biographies and various aspects related to embodiment.

Findings – Affective systems consist of brain networks whose connections deepen when activated, with interesting variations observable at the neural, individual, and social levels in which one or more system is more salient than others. Affective systems may come to saturate the construction and maintenance of an autobiography or collective biography, with consequences for self-projection, self-other attunement, and embodied action. In turning to embodiment, however, we consider aspects of cognitive neuroscience that can contribute to ongoing work in neurosociology building on symbolic interactionism.

Practical Implications – The focus on affective systems suggests new research agendas in leveraging emerging neurosociological methods in the laboratory, while pushing for novel, naturalistic observational strategies. The latter, in particular, may be key to deepening sociology's contributions to neuroscience, better positioned to bring the full disciplinary toolkit to bear on these questions.

Social Implications – In considering the embodied and projective aspects of the self, we show how work examining convergence and divergence between embodied and linguistic pathways opens up new insights into how the self develops or acquires behavioral repertoires. As such, this chapter points to the need for holistic approach to understanding the social actor and, thereby, how political, economic, historical, and cultural factors shape self as much as biogenetic and psychological.

Originality of the Chapter – Sociologists think of emotions as either dependent or intervening variables: (1) signaling identity or situational incongruence, (2) states to be managed, and (3) structural dimensions of superordinate–subordinate relationships. Our integration of the theory of affective systems emphasizes the causal primacy emotions have over other behavioral and cognitive functions, clarifying how they play into the construction and maintenance of self and social experience.

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Advances in Group Processes
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-80043-232-1

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Book part
Publication date: 19 October 2012

David D. Franks and Jeff Davis

Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to be as comprehensive as possible about what is known about mirror neurons at this time.Design/methodology/approach – This…

Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to be as comprehensive as possible about what is known about mirror neurons at this time.

Design/methodology/approach – This chapter offers a comprehensive critique including Churchland's hesitations about findings on mirror neurons (2011) which are balanced by Ramachandran's conviction that much of the research on mirror neurons is valid (2011). Following this is a summary of the results of the Mirror Neuron Forum (2011) wherein leading mirror neuron researchers exchange their views and conclusions about this subject.

Findings – The few single cells measures that we have show that they are much wider distributed throughout the brain than we have previously imagined. It should be stressed that single measures of mirror neurons have occurred albeit in limited situations. This establishes once and for all their relevance to humans.

Originality/value – The work on mirror neurons is a critical contribution from neuroscience to bringing the social brain into sociology and refining our understandings of intersubjectivity and of our biologically driven connections with others.

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Book part
Publication date: 17 October 2011

Jenell M. Johnson and Melissa M. Littlefield

Recent years have seen an explosion in research by scholars from the social sciences and humanities who apply neuroscience to research in their home disciplines. One way…

Abstract

Recent years have seen an explosion in research by scholars from the social sciences and humanities who apply neuroscience to research in their home disciplines. One way these ‘neuroscholars’ have engaged in conversations with neuroscience is by incorporating books of popular neuroscience into their work. This chapter explores some of the textual changes that result from the translation of neuroscience to popular neuroscience, and through rhetorical analysis, examines how popular neuroscience is used to support claims in emerging disciplines like neuroeconomics, neuroliterary criticism, neurolaw, and neuroeducation. An examination of scholarship from several disciplines – including sociology – reveals that popular neuroscience is often marshaled not as a translation or accommodation of science, but as science itself via two primary rhetorical strategies we have termed ‘fact finding’ and ‘theory building.’

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Sociological Reflections on the Neurosciences
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84855-881-6

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Book part
Publication date: 19 October 2012

Will Kalkhoff, Shane R. Thye and Edward J. Lawler

This volume begins with two chapters that draw on evolutionary sociology to advance our understanding of interpersonal processes and their role in social organization. In…

Abstract

This volume begins with two chapters that draw on evolutionary sociology to advance our understanding of interpersonal processes and their role in social organization. In “The Biology and Neurology of Group Processes,” Jonathan H. Turner and Alexandra Maryanski draw on three areas of evolutionary sociology (cladistic analysis, comparative neuroanatomy, and ecological analysis) to show how understanding the selection pressures acting on the brain over millions of years can help us get a better grasp on the biologically based capacities and propensities that are involved in group processes such as role-taking and role-making. An improved understanding of these processes means better explanations of how humans create, sustain, and change social structures and culture – topics that lie at the core of sociological inquiry. At the same time, Turner and Maryanski's chapter will give sociologists much to think about and debate, as one of the main conclusions of their argument is that neurology explains human capacities to develop non-kin groups more than culture. The next chapter entitled “Sacrifice, Gratitude, and Obligation: Serial Reciprocity in Early Christianity,” by Richard Machalek and Michael W. Martin, may be seen as giving more equal explanatory weight to culture and biology in a theoretical analysis that combines a focus on cognitive processes (historically unique meanings and ideas) with evolutionary sociological insights about emotions in order to generate better explanations of complex socio-historical developments. Specifically, Machalek and Martin extend Rodney Stark's analysis of how ideas contributed to the rise of Christianity by showing how the evolved features of human emotionality related to “paying it forward” (or serial reciprocity in more formal terms) may have also played an important role in this historical process. Both chapters provide excellent examples of the value of combining multiple theoretical perspectives and paying attention to the interplay of social and biological forces.

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Biosociology and Neurosociology
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78190-257-8

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Book part
Publication date: 19 October 2012

Abstract

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Biosociology and Neurosociology
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78190-257-8

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Book part
Publication date: 19 October 2012

Rengin Firat and Steven Hitlin

Purpose – Due to an absence of dialogue between sociology and the neurosciences, the scientific study of morality largely ignores cultural and structural influences. This…

Abstract

Purpose – Due to an absence of dialogue between sociology and the neurosciences, the scientific study of morality largely ignores cultural and structural influences. This chapter offers a synthetic approach integrating these separate disciplines to aid a more complete understanding of morality.

Design/methodology/approach – This chapter reviews morality's bonding (a sense of groupness and belonging) and bounding (reproducing and reinforcing group boundaries) qualities across disciplines, and proposes three provisional principles to systematize an interdisciplinary model of morality. We then offer a preliminary illustration of how this model might be operationalized with functional MRI data.

Findings – Our proposed principles (as exemplified by our illustrative example) suggest that the sociology-neurology gap in understanding the domain of morality might shrink through an engagement with the underlying neural mechanisms that encompass issues of empathy, racial attitudes, and identity as potential platforms opening up a more “social” neuroscience.

Research limitations/implications – This chapter provides a starting-point for further research incorporating biological mechanisms into sociological theories in the area of morality. The illustrative case study should be replicated in a larger sample and/or in additional studies with different social groups.

Practical implications – This chapter is a useful source of information for sociologists seeking to find out more about the intersection of neuroscience and sociology as well as the neural dynamics of morality.

Originality/value – This chapter presents an introduction to an integrative approach recognizing our biological capacities for a socially constructed morality and the interaction between society and the mind. It includes one of the first sociologically oriented fMRI studies, offering avenues for new ways to bridge research disciplines.

Details

Biosociology and Neurosociology
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78190-257-8

Keywords

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Book part
Publication date: 19 October 2012

Abstract

Details

Biosociology and Neurosociology
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78190-257-8

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