The Acculturated Brain

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Theory And Psychology


Recent decades have been marked by a steadily increasing emphasis on neural determinants of behavior. Concerns with socio-cultural processes have simultaneously been diminished. Given the significance of this shift toward a cortical explanation of human behavior-in terms of both the direction of research in psychology and the implications of this research for social practices and policy-critical reflection is essential. In particular, when significant conceptual flaws are brought into focus, we find good reason to reconsider the significance of sociocultural process. And, when we take into account major vistas of neuropsychological research, the conclusion becomes evident that not only is human action unintelligible in terms of neural activity, but the brain primarily functions in the service of cultural process. To be sure, cortical functioning may both enable and limit human activity. However, given the enormous variation in human conduct, and the dependency of such conduct on the generation of cultural meaning, the most promising conclusion, both for research and for societal practice, is to view the brain chiefly as an instrument for achieving socially originated ends. This is not to argue against inquiry into brain functioning, but to be more judicious about the domains of its utility, and critical in terms of what it offers for understanding human action.