Mind in Society

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Understanding the interaction between the individual human being and the modern
social world is one of the key intellectual challenges of our time. Previous
philosophical frameworks such as reductionism and the nature versus nurture
debate have critical limitations in furthering our thinking within the human
sciences. Now, scholars from across the natural and social sciences must
resolve the subtle, yet far-reaching, consequences of how individual minds
influence and are influenced by shifting social contexts. Research has shown
that individual behavior cannot be fully understood outside of social and
historical contexts while work in the humanities has a renewed focus on how
social worlds are partly a function of the psychological makeup of the
individuals that comprise them. Similarly, the biological basis of human
cognitive capacity is fundamental for understanding the computational and
physical constraints within which social structures are built. Understanding the
interplay between the individual and social dimension of human minds may help
address contemporary problems ranging from the economic crisis, social and
political change, through to influencing behavior which impacts upon
environmental, educational, health and civic concerns (such as climate change
behavior, mental health and community cohesion). Here, we propose a new Centre
for Mind in Society to investigate how an individuals cognitive capacities
structure, and are structured by, social environments within which the
individual is embedded. We propose to study such structuring at different
timescales: within an individuals lifespan, across historical time periods, and
across evolutionary timescales. The Centre brings together researchers from the
psychological, social, linguistic, computational and biological sciences with an
interest in this question, and thus brings to bear a wide range of
methodologies, spanning computational modeling of neural anatomy, to
quantitative modeling of large data-sets, to the philosophical and historical
analysis of thought and language. As the first centre of its kind in the UK
representing a true marriage of the experimental and theoretical social sciences
and the humanities, it will enhance our understanding of how individual
psychology interacts with our moving, multi-layered, modern society.

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