Sociology of Cognition: How Do We Know What We Know? SOCIO4126

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

"The nature of social cognition - how we "know about" the social world - is one of the most deceptively obvious problems for sociology. Because we know what we know, we often think we know how and why we know it." (Martin and Desmond, 2010)


It is relatively easy to identify what we know about ourselves, others, our surroundings or a given situation. But what are the processes through which we acquire and/or construct knowledge with which we operate as social actors? To answer this question, the course explores various sources of a) sociological theory and b) empirical social research on what certain groups of people know (also what they believe, what they doubt or reject) and how they know it. Cognition will be discussed in a broad sense as social, cultural, mental, embodied, relational, and emotional.

Since cognition is so closely linked with the knowing subject, the field draws mostly on micro-sociological perspectives and on research done at a human rather than societal scale. Furthermore, the breath of applications of sociological theories of cognition and knowledge can be seen in the examples of practical research which will be discussed in the course. These cover themes from support to overeaters to practices of glass-blowing, and from motivations of tourism to meanings of smell. Given its small-scale focus and its wide applicability, cognitive sociology will encourage you to reflect on mundane events, immediately experienced individually or interpersonally, and to problematise the ways in which they may be relevant in relation to wider social phenomena.



Requirements of Entry

In order to take this course, students need to have met the requirements for entry into the Sociology Honours Programme. This means achieving a grade of 'D' or better in Sociology 1A and 1B and a 'C' or better in Sociology 2A and 2B. Students also have to comply with the College of Social Science regulations for progression to Honours.

Excluded Courses





Summative Assessment:  

An essay analysing at least 3 articles/book chapters from the bibliographical list, including the text presented in the seminar, and identifying a potential line for further empirical research which draws on the sources discussed in the essay (word limit 4000 words).

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. Where, exceptionally, reassessment on Honours courses is required to satisfy professional/accreditation requirements, only the overall course grade achieved at the first attempt will contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

The aims of this course are:

- to introduce students to core theories in the areas of cognitive sociology and the sociology of knowledge;

- to provide them with a critical understanding of the reciprocal relation between individual cognition and supra-individual phenomena;

- to develop students' abilities to assess the strengths and limitations of different theoretical approaches;

- to enable them to apply theories of social cognition covered in the course in a flexible and productive way in empirical analyses.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

present key issues in the area of cognitive sociology;

evaluate different sociological views about cognition and meaning making, separately and by comparison with each other;

define and apply in their arguments concepts such as: collective consciousness, relevance, typification, stock of knowledge, sociation, embodied cognition, habit etc.

explain the bidirectional relation between individual cognition and social life.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.