Debates of the nature of the mind have long been central to psychology. The encyclopaedia Britannica defines the mind as the source of “such occurrences as sensations, perceptions, emotions, memory, desires, various types of reasoning, motives, choices, traits of personality, and the unconscious” (Mind, n.d.)
Mind is in the head, as well as culture and society. I will argue that this proposition that some theorists defend is problematic in its use of the term ‘mind’. There needs to be a clear distinction between the psychological processes that happen within our head and the social interactions enabled by our mind that shape our society. For the purpose of this essay, culture and society shall simply be regarded as the social environment in which we live.
The mind, as conceptualised over the last centuries, remains a debated topic in its relation to the body and the environment (Mind, n.d; Pinker, 2002). This essay begins by supporting the monist notion of an embodied mind, shaped by environment and genetics.
In addressing the question of the extent to which mind is in society, this will be discussed from the standpoint of social constructionism. I argue against the individual mind being situated in society on the basis of 2 propositions:
1. Social constructions are the result of collective minds rather than the individual, and this distinction is vital. The mind should be thought of as the tool for the creation of these constructs.
2. There is more to the mind than can be expressed in shared symbols and there is an individual part of the mind that is inaccessible to the social and can thus not be situated in society.
Finally, the connections between the mind and the social are so close that the two entities run danger of being confused, leading to an unhelpful way of thinking about the individual and society. I suggest that a new term is needed to communicate about the part of our mind that collaborates in creating social reality and can be suggested to reside in culture, in order not to confuse this with the individual mind.
THE MIND Titles may change
The mind is shaped by both internal –biological- and external –social- influences and their interaction. To develop, the brain needs stimulation and the nature of these influences is determined by the culture the individual is situated in (Shore, 1996; Pinker, 2002). The individual mind internalises and interprets cultural influences to create a personal understanding of the world. Such cultural influences can shape even basic individual processes such as movement (Mauss, 1973) and perception (Heinrich, Heine & Norenzayan, 2010).
According to the ‘brain hypothesis’ all psychological processes that are commonly referred to as the mind are controlled by the brain. The brain contains the neurological networks which are shaped through a continuous interplay between genes and learning and have evolved to enable us to live in large social groups and to perceive, understand and interpret...