Culture and Cognition

Anthropology 139
Culture and Cognition 

Marida Hollos
Brown University
Semester II, 2000-01

This course will focus on the central question: Are there cultural differences in thought and perception? If so, what are these differences, what are they attributable to and how do they manifest themselves?

The history of interest in the question of cross-cultural differences in thought is long and fraught with disagreements and contradictions. Some of the research in the field is based on scientifically rigorous collection of data, while others depend on ethnographic field methods. Since the current interest is rooted in a historical tradition, the course will first review the beginnings of the controversy on “primitive thought”, then focus on and critically evaluate more recent work. The topics under consideration will include the relationship between language and thought; the influence of culture and the environment on perception and concept formation; the development of cognitive operations; differences in logical processes and conceptualization in other cultural contexts; and research on modes of cultural representation.


The required readings are located in the texts and the packet of xeroxed readings available in the Brown Bookstore. Articles marked with * are found in the packet.

Examinations will consist of a mid-term and a final. The mid-term will be taken in class, the final will be a take-home exam, questions for which will be handed out on the last day of the reading period.

There will be one term paper due on the date indicated in the syllabus. The paper will be based on original field research, topics for which will be selected in consultation with the instructor.

The lectures will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In addition to the lectures, there will be a discussion section after the Thursday lecture. This will provide an opportunity for sharing ideas, discussing readings and raising questions. Attendance at the section meetings is required and performance in the discussions will contribute towards the students’ final grade.


D’Andrade, Roy (1995) The Development of Cognitive Anthropology.

D’Andrade, Roy and Claudia Strauss (1992) Human Motives and Cultural Models.

Rogoff, Barbara and Jean Lave (1984) Everyday Cognition.

Copyright © 2001 Marida Hollos

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