PhD student Gordon Brett recently published a piece titled "A Sociology of 'Thinking Dispositions'"

July 13, 2021 by Victoria Shi

PhD student Gordon Brett recently published a piece titled "A Sociology of 'Thinking Dispositions'" on the academic blog Culture, Cognition, and Action (culturecog). 

In this piece, Gordon emphasizes the importance of taking into account individual variability in sociological work on dual-process cognition. From examining the claims of various cultural sociologists, Gordon shows that they "presuppose a 'one-size fits all' model of social actors and the workings of human cognition." Although the term "individual differences" tends to be overlooked by sociologists because it sounds "non-sociological," Gordon states that it nonetheless exists, is socially patterned, and is valuable for research.

Gordon Brett is a PhD candidate in Sociology and a member of the Morality, Action, and Cognition Lab (MAC Lab) at the University of Toronto. His current research focuses on creativity, cognitive styles, and the theory diagrams that sociologists use. He also examines how cognitive processes and social and cultural life interrelate.

We've included an excerpt of the article below. You can read the full article on Culturecog.

"We can go back to the classics to find concepts that approximate thinking dispositions and propositions about how and why they are socially patterned. Georg Simmel argued that the psychological conditions of the metropolis (e.g., constant sensory stimulation, the money economy) produce citizens that (dispositionally and habitually) react “with [their] head instead of [their] heart” (2012[1905]: 25) – a more conscious, intellectual, rational, and calculating mode of thought. Relatedly, John Dewey (2002[1922], 1933) wrote about a “habit of reflection” or a “reflective disposition” born out of education and social customs.

We can also find this line of thinking in more contemporary works. Pierre Bourdieu (2000) argued that the conditions of the skholè foster a “scholastic disposition” characterized by scholastic reasoning or hypothetical thinking. Annette Lareau’s (2011) account of “concerted cultivation” found that wealthier families aimed to stimulate and encourage their children’s rational thinking and deliberate information processing to develop their “cognitive skills.” Critical realists aiming to hybridize habitus and reflexivity have argued that certain conditions (e.g., late-modernity, socialization that emphasizes contemplation) produce habiti in which reflexivity itself becomes dispositional – a reflexive habitus (Adkins, 2003; Mouzelis, 2009; Sweetman, 2003). All of these accounts broadly suggest that people in different social locations are exposed to different types of social and cultural influences which lead them to develop thinking dispositions."