Grounding Social Sciences in Cognitive Sciences


Published by the MIT Press


Ron Sun (ed.)



A General Description of the Book 


This book is aimed at exploring the cognitive (psychological) basis of the social sciences and the possibilities of grounding the social sciences in cognition (psychology). The result will be what I call cognitive social sciences (or cognitively based social sciences) --- an integrative intellectual enterprise (see detailed justifications in the introductory chapter).


The cognitive sciences have made tremendous strides in recent decades. In particular, computational cognitive modeling (i.e., computational psychology; Sun, 2008; Thagard, 1996) has changed the ways in which cognition/psychology is explored and understood in many profound respects. There have been many models of cognition/psychology proposed in the cognitive sciences (broadly defined), leading to detailed understanding of many cognitive/psychological domains and functionalities. Empirical psychological research has also progressed to provide us with much better understanding of many psychological phenomena.


Given the advances in the cognitive sciences, can we leverage the successes for the sake of better understanding social processes and phenomena? More fundamentally, can the cognitive sciences (including experimental cognitive psychology, computational psychology, social-personality psychology, developmental psychology, cultural psychology, psycholinguistics, philosophy of mind, cognitive neuroscience, and so on) provide a better foundation for important disciplines of the social sciences (sociology, anthropology, economics, political science, ethics, as well as some "humanity" fields: history, literary studies, communication, legal studies, religious studies, and so on)?


Thus far, although very much a neglected topic, there nevertheless have been various efforts at exploring this topic. Some of the efforts were computationally motivated (see, e.g., Sun, 2006: "Cognition and Multi-Agent Interaction", published by Cambridge University Press). Some other efforts were more empirical or theoretical in nature (see, e.g, Turner, 2001: "Cognitive Dimensions of Social Science", published by Oxford University Press).


There are both theoretical and practical rationales for developing "cognitive social sciences" (see, e.g., Turner, 2001; Sun, 2006; DiMaggio, 1997; Camerer, 2003; Tetlock and Goldgeier, 2000). We contend that the social sciences may find their future in the cognitive sciences (at least in part), which may well lead to a powerful and productive combined intellectual enterprise. This combination or grounding may provide the social sciences with imaginative scientific research programs, hybridization/integration, new syntheses, novel paradigms/frameworks, and so on, beside providing the cognitive sciences with new data sources and problems to address.


This volume will include all major work in this direction, written by the best experts in various fields of the social sciences and the cognitive sciences. It is expected that the book will be the definitive work in this area for years to come.


We need to achieve a proper balance between breadth and depth. For each chapter, we aim to combine the rigor and depth of a research article with the breadth and appeal of a handbook chapter.


The unifying theme is: a broad unification of social and cognitive sciences through “grounding” of the social sciences in the cognitive sciences --- broadly construed and broadly inclusive. (In particular, this book will not be limited to computational approaches, or to any other specific methodology.)


The book has chapters on a range of topics, carefully selected to capture the full range of issues in a wide selection of social sciences areas/fields. Thus, for example, someone from behavioral economics could pick up the book to see what related work is being done in different social sciences areas/disciplines.



Table of Content 


Part One. Introduction.

The first part will provide an overview of the theme of the book, and present some general background and some theoretical arguments in support of the theme of the book.


Part Two. Culture.

The second part will include a number of chapters on the issue of culture and how it may be “grounded” (at least in part) in cognition (psychology).


Part Three. Politics.

The third part will include a number of chapters on politics and international relations and how they may be understood from a cognitive (psychological) perspective.


Part Four. Religion.

The fourth part will include chapters on religion and how religion may be better understood through cognition (psychology).


Part Five. Economics.

The fifth part will cover economics and its relation to cognition (psychology).


Part Six. Unifying Perspectives.

This part will present some overarching, unifying perspectives related to the theme of the book, to provide broader views of the fields and to stimulate further research.



Ordering the book from MIT Press  

A sample chapter: Chapter 1  

Instructions to Contributors