Cognitive science: a multi-discipline

Human cognition is a complex business and researching it calls on wide range of disciplines. A conservative estimate gives us a motley crew of 7:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Psychology
  • Information science
  • Philosophy
  • Anthropology
  • Linguistics

assorted sculpted figuresIt’s a delightful mix of hard and soft sciences, with philosophy making a special appearance on behalf of the humanities and anthropology doing its own thing.

When we get to the more specialized subject of embodied situated cognition – what I have rather poetically described as ‘bodymind place’ – the crew gets bigger and we start to draw on research from sociology, geography, education and management.

Because cognitive science is multi-disciplinary, it can roam beyond the boundaries that enclose more conventional  disciplines. This openness has enabled a exciting conversation that sometimes challenges the existing paradigm. Since Plato we’ve been stuck with the notion that reality consists of objects perceived by human subjects. Such tired dualities are now breaking down into descriptions of complex dynamic processes.

According to cognitive neuroscientist Francesco Varela and his colleagues, “organism and environment enfold into each other and unfold from one another in the fundamental circularity that is life itself” (Varela et al., 1991).

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