Dictionary Home
AnthroBase Home
Bookmark, cite or print this page

(Not to be confused with "cognatic" - see lineage.)

Concerned with processes of thought and mentation; often associated with words such as "grammatical", "logical" or "linguistic"). The cognitive is often seen as opposed to the emotional and bodily; to feeling (ethos) and action (habitus). With our cognitive abilities we may "think aboput the matter", but we do not "feel" it. Traditionally, anthropologists have understood culture as the total, humanly created reality, from houses and tools to symbols and language (see Tylor). During the 1960's and 70's, anthropologists such as Keesing (1974) and Geertz argued that "culture" should be understood as the purely cognitive aspect of human life, while the interactive and material aspects should be termed "society". This distinction (which derives historically from the division between British social anthropology and American cultural anthropology) has been criticized, but has the methodological merit that it stimulates the anthropologist to look for data of both kinds during fieldwork. More recently, influence from other cognitively oriented sciences, as linguistics, psychology and computer simulation, has lead to an increased interest in the connections between "society" and "culture", between the interactive-material and the cognitive-emotional, between what people do and what they think and say about it.

See also information.

For texts concerned with cognitive anthropology on AnthroBase, click here:

For texts concerned with the American culture and personality school on AnthroBase, click here:

For texts concerned with meaning, communication and symbolism on AnthroBase, click here: