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Biogenetic structuralism

Biogenetic structuralism

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Biogenetic structuralism is a body of theory in anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

. The perspective grounds discussions of learning, culture, personality and social action in neuroscience
Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system. Traditionally, neuroscience has been seen as a branch of biology. However, it is currently an interdisciplinary science that collaborates with other fields such as chemistry, computer science, engineering, linguistics, mathematics,...

. The original book of that title (Laughlin and d'Aquili 1974) represented an interdisciplinary merger of anthropology, psychology and the neurosciences. It presented the view that the universal structures characteristic of human language and culture, cognition about time and space, affect certain psychopathologies, and the like were due to the genetically predisposed organization of the nervous system. It seemed to the authors preposterous that the invariant patterns of behavior, cognition and culture being discussed in various structuralist theories in anthropology, psychology and literary criticism could be lodged anywhere other than in the nervous system. After all, every thought, every image, every feeling and action is demonstrably mediated by the nervous system. Moreover, it seemed possible to develop a theoretical perspective that: was non-dualistic in modelling mind and body, was not reductionistic in the positivist sense (i.e., that the physical sciences can give a complete account of all things mental/cultural), and was informed by all reasonable sources of data about human consciousness and culture. In other words, no explanatory account of culture is complete without encompassing what we know about the structures in the nervous system mediating culture—for example, music, which is a cultural universal mediated by demonstrable neurophysiological structures (see Biomusicology
Biomusicology is the study of music from a biological point of view. The term was coined by Nils L. Wallin in 1991. Music is an aspect of the behaviour of the human and possibly other species...


This project had to be lodged within an evolutionary frame due to: (1) the evidence of dramatic encephalization
Encephalization is defined as the amount of brain mass exceeding that related to an animal's total body mass. Quantifying an animal's encephalization has been argued to be directly related to that animal's level of intelligence. Aristotle wrote in 335 B.C...

 found in the fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

 record of extinct human ancestors, and the fact that cultural variation was conceived as the primary mode of human adaptation (see Evolutionary neuroscience
Evolutionary neuroscience
Evolutionary neuroscience is an interdisciplinary scientific research field that studies the evolution of nervous systems. Evolutionary neuroscientists attempt to understand the evolution and natural history of nervous system structure and function. The field draws on concepts and findings from...

). Biogenetic structuralism explores the different areas of the nervous system that seem to have evolved during the course of hominid encephalization and that produce the distinctly human quality of mentation, learning, communication, and social action characteristic of our species today (see Human Evolution
Human evolution
Human evolution refers to the evolutionary history of the genus Homo, including the emergence of Homo sapiens as a distinct species and as a unique category of hominids and mammals...


Neurognosis and the cognized environment

The group's first book presented some general concepts which were later refined and used in other studies. One important concept was neurognosis
Neurognosis is a technical term used in biogenetic structuralism to refer to the initial organization of the experiencing and cognizing brain.All neurophysiological models comprising an individual’s cognized environment develop from these nascent models which exist as the initial, genetically...

, a term coined to label the inherent, rudimentary knowledge available to cognition in the initial organization of the pre- and perinatal nervous system (see Pre- and perinatal psychology
Pre- and perinatal psychology
Prenatal and perinatal psychology is an interdisciplinary study of the foundations of health in body, mind, emotions and in enduring response patterns to life...

). A human baby was conceived as taking its first cognitive and perceptual stance toward the world from the standpoint of a system of initial, genetically predisposed neurognostic models that come to develop in somatosensory interaction with the world.

The principal function of the human nervous system at the level of the cerebral cortex is the construction of a vast network of these models. This network of neural models in each individual is called the cognized environment
Cognized environment
Cognized environment is a concept first introduced by the late anthropologist, Roy Rappaport , in contrast to what he called the operational environment . Rappaport was an ecological anthropologist, like Andrew P...

, contrasted with the actual operational environment that includes both the real nature of that individual as an organism and the effective external environment (see Laughlin and Brady 1978:6, d'Aquili et al. 1979:12, Rubinstein et al. 1984:21, Laughlin, McManus and d'Aquili 1990). The notions of cognized and operational environments were borrowed by the biogenetic structuralist group from Roy Rappaport
Roy Rappaport
Roy A. Rappaport was a distinguished anthropologist known for his contributions to the anthropological study of ritual and to ecological anthropology.-Biography:...

 who coined the terms in his 1968 classic, Pigs for the Ancestors (see Rappaport 1968, 1979, 1984, 1999). The perspective began to take on a more developmental perspective as it incorporated the works of Jerome Bruner
Jerome Bruner
Jerome Seymour Bruner is an American psychologist who has contributed to cognitive psychology and cognitive learning theory in educational psychology, as well as to history and to the general philosophy of education. Bruner is currently a senior research fellow at the New York University School...

, Jean Piaget
Jean Piaget
Jean Piaget was a French-speaking Swiss developmental psychologist and philosopher known for his epistemological studies with children. His theory of cognitive development and epistemological view are together called "genetic epistemology"....

 and others. Biogenetic structural theory now holds that not only the initial organization of the baby's cognized environment is essentially neurognostic, but so too is the course of development of those models and patterns of entrainment of models—a view not dissimilar to Carl Jung
Carl Jung
Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and the founder of Analytical Psychology. Jung is considered the first modern psychiatrist to view the human psyche as "by nature religious" and make it the focus of exploration. Jung is one of the best known researchers in the field of dream analysis and...

's notion of archetype
An archetype is a universally understood symbol or term or pattern of behavior, a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated...

 (see Laughlin 1996 on archetypes and the brain).

Ritual and symbolic function

The first book-length application of biogenetic structural theory was an account of the evolution and structure of human ritual
A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. It may be prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community. The term usually excludes actions which are arbitrarily chosen by the performers....

. In The Spectrum of Ritual (d'Aquili et al. 1979) the group generated a theory of ritual behavior as a mechanism by which intra- and interorganismic entrainment
Entrainment may refer to:* Air entrainment, the intentional creation of tiny air bubbles in concrete* Brainwave entrainment, the practice of entraining one's brainwaves to a desired frequency...

 of neurocognitive
Neurocognitive is a term used to describe cognitive functions closely linked to the function of particular areas, neural pathways, or cortical networks in the brain substrate layers of neurological matrix at the cellular molecular level...

 processes are evoked, thus making concerted action among social animal
Social animal
A social animal is a loosely defined term for an organism that is highly interactive with other members of its species to the point of having a recognizable and distinct society.All mammals are social to the extent that mothers and offspring bond...

s possible. The general model was used to examine formalized behavior among animals generally, then specifically among mammals, primates and finally humans. They also looked at the various neurocognitive processes mediating arousal
Arousal is a physiological and psychological state of being awake or reactive to stimuli. It involves the activation of the reticular activating system in the brain stem, the autonomic nervous system and the endocrine system, leading to increased heart rate and blood pressure and a condition of...

, affect
Affect (psychology)
Affect refers to the experience of feeling or emotion. Affect is a key part of the process of an organism's interaction with stimuli. The word also refers sometimes to affect display, which is "a facial, vocal, or gestural behavior that serves as an indicator of affect" .The affective domain...

, physical and social cognition
In science, cognition refers to mental processes. These processes include attention, remembering, producing and understanding language, solving problems, and making decisions. Cognition is studied in various disciplines such as psychology, philosophy, linguistics, and computer science...

, etc. As it has turned out, ritual has been a major focus of the group's work (see also d'Aquili 1983, d'Aquili and Laughlin 1975, Laughlin and McManus 1982, Laughlin et al. 1986, Laughlin 1988c) because of ritual's ubiquitous nature and its role in controlling cognition and experience.

Another major focus of biogenetic structural analysis has been what the group calls the symbolic function -- that is, the process by which meaning and form are integrated to become symbols in the brain (see Laughlin, McManus and Stephens 1981, Laughlin and Stephens 1980, MacDonald et al. 1988, Young- Laughlin and Laughlin 1988). The group has been particularly interested in how sensory
Sensory may refer to:relating to senses or smellIn biology:* Sensory preference* Sensory system, part of the nervous system of organisms* Sensory neuron, nerve cell responsible for transmitting information about external stimuli...

 stimuli as symbols are able to penetrate (i.e., find their way) to those neurocognitive models mediating meaning
Meaning (semiotics)
In semiotics, the meaning of a sign is its place in a sign relation, in other words, the set of roles that it occupies within a given sign relation. This statement holds whether sign is taken to mean a sign type or a sign token...

 and signification
Sign (semiotics)
A sign is understood as a discrete unit of meaning in semiotics. It is defined as "something that stands for something, to someone in some capacity" It includes words, images, gestures, scents, tastes, textures, sounds – essentially all of the ways in which information can be...

, and how models express themselves in symbolic action and cultural artifact
Cultural artifact
A cultural artifact is a term used in the social sciences, particularly anthropology, ethnology, and sociology for anything created by humans which gives information about the culture of its creator and users...

s. Among other things, the biogenetic structuralists developed a theory of the evolution of the symbolic function that proceeds from primordial symbol, through cognized SYMBOL systems to sign systems, and finally to formal sign systems, any or all of which may operate at any moment in adult human cognition (Laughlin, McManus and Stephens 1981).

Recent trends in biogenetic structural theory

There have been several recent trends in biogenetic structuralism that are of interest to anthropology:

Transpersonal experience

One trend is toward a greater attention to transpersonal experience (see also transpersonal
The term transpersonal is often used to refer to psychological categories that transcend the normal features of ordinary ego-functioning. That is, stages of psychological growth, or stages of consciousness, that move beyond the rational andprecede the mystical...

 and transpersonal anthropology
Transpersonal anthropology
Transpersonal anthropology is a subdiscipline of cultural anthropology. It studies the relationship between altered states of consciousness and culture....

) as data relevant to the study of ritual; that is, to extraordinary experiences and states of consciousness, and the relation of these to patterns of symbolism, cognition and practice found in religions and cosmologies cross-culturally (see d'Aquili 1982, Laughlin 1985, 1988a, 1988c, Laughlin et al. 1986, Laughlin McManus and Shearer 1983, Laughlin, McManus and Webber 1984, MacDonald et al. 1988, Webber et al. 1983). Taking their inspiration from William James
William James
William James was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher who was trained as a physician. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and on the philosophy of pragmatism...

, the group has tracked the greatest range of human experience and related this to transformations in neurocognitive
Neurocognitive is a term used to describe cognitive functions closely linked to the function of particular areas, neural pathways, or cortical networks in the brain substrate layers of neurological matrix at the cellular molecular level...

, autonomic
Autonomic nervous system
The autonomic nervous system is the part of the peripheral nervous system that acts as a control system functioning largely below the level of consciousness, and controls visceral functions. The ANS affects heart rate, digestion, respiration rate, salivation, perspiration, diameter of the pupils,...

 and neuroendocrine entrainments. By expanding their scope to include all possible human experience, they hope to understand:
  1. The maximum potential genetic and developmental limits to patterns of entrainment
    Brainwave synchronization
    Brainwave entrainment or "brainwave synchronization," is any practice that aims to cause brainwave frequencies to fall into step with a periodic stimulus having a frequency corresponding to the intended brain-state , usually attempted with the use of specialized software...

     and therefore to human experience,
  2. The mechanisms by which societies condition patterns of entrainment so as to control (limit or extend) the range of human experience,
  3. The mechanisms by which societies produce recurrent extraordinary experiences in some or all of their members so as to verify and vivify the societies' world view
    World view
    A comprehensive world view is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the entirety of the individual or society's knowledge and point-of-view, including natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and...

  4. And by extrapolation, the possible future limits of human consciousness (Laughlin and Richardson 1986).

Pre- and perinatal anthropology

Another trend in biogenetic structural theory has been to extend the age at which society influences neurocognitive development back into very early life. There is now sufficient evidence from clinical psychology and developmental neurobiology that experiences occurring in pre- and perinatal life
Pre- and perinatal psychology
Prenatal and perinatal psychology is an interdisciplinary study of the foundations of health in body, mind, emotions and in enduring response patterns to life...

 (in the womb, during birth and during early infancy) are formative on later patterns of neurocognitive entrainment and adaptation. The methodological import of this view is that anthropologists and others interested in the ontogenesis of cognitive systems and cultural patterns need to look more carefully at how society conditions the environment of the human being during that early formative period (see Laughlin 1989a, 1990).


Another recent interest has been in making a case for the importance of a neurophenomenology
Neurophenomenology refers to a scientific research program aimed to address the hard problem of consciousness in a pragmatic way. It combines neuroscience with phenomenology in order to study experience, mind, and consciousness with an emphasis on the embodied condition of the human mind...

 to the study of brain, consciousness and culture—an approach that is often considered to be antithetical to the anti-introspectionist bias of positivist science, and particularly to some schools of cognitive science (Laughlin, McManus and d'Aquili 1990). Phenomenology (à la Edmund Husserl
Edmund Husserl
Edmund Gustav Albrecht Husserl was a philosopher and mathematician and the founder of the 20th century philosophical school of phenomenology. He broke with the positivist orientation of the science and philosophy of his day, yet he elaborated critiques of historicism and of psychologism in logic...

, Maurice Merleau-Ponty
Maurice Merleau-Ponty
Maurice Merleau-Ponty was a French phenomenological philosopher, strongly influenced by Karl Marx, Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger in addition to being closely associated with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir...

, Aron Gurwitsch
Aron Gurwitsch
Aron Gurwitsch was a Lithuanian-born Jewish American philosopher working in the field of phenomenology. He wrote on the relations between phenomenology and Gestalt psychology...

, and others, as well as eastern mystical and cross-cultural shamanistic traditions) is the study of the invariant processes of consciousness (i.e., essences) by the practice of mature contemplation. Neurophenomenology is thus the attempt to explain such processes by reference to what is known about the brain. Two recent studies by the group exemplify this merging of contemplative and neuroscientific perspectives. One study discusses the wired-in intentionality
The term intentionality was introduced by Jeremy Bentham as a principle of utility in his doctrine of consciousness for the purpose of distinguishing acts that are intentional and acts that are not...

 of consciousness (noted in fact by all phenomenologies) in terms of a systemic dialectic between prefrontal cortex
Prefrontal cortex
The prefrontal cortex is the anterior part of the frontal lobes of the brain, lying in front of the motor and premotor areas.This brain region has been implicated in planning complex cognitive behaviors, personality expression, decision making and moderating correct social behavior...

 and sensory cortex
Sensory cortex
The sensory cortex can refer informally to the primary somatosensory cortex, or it can be used as an umbrella term for the primary and secondary cortices of the different senses : the visual cortex on the occipital lobes, the auditory cortex on the temporal lobes, the primary olfactory cortex on...

 (Laughlin 1988b). Another study suggests the relationship between invariant temporal patterns of perceptual sequencing and the neuropsychological literature available on "perceptual framing" (Laughlin 1992).

Contributions to cyborg anthropology

Because biogenetic structural theory rejects any disembodied account of consciousness or culture, it was quite natural for the group to consider the implications of the direct interfacing
Brain-computer interface
A brain–computer interface , sometimes called a direct neural interface or a brain–machine interface , is a direct communication pathway between the brain and an external device...

 of information processing technologies
Information system
An information system - or application landscape - is any combination of information technology and people's activities that support operations, management, and decision making. In a very broad sense, the term information system is frequently used to refer to the interaction between people,...

 (e.g., computers) and the development and evolution of the brain—an inevitable outcome considering the modern research intended to bring that eventuality about. These considerations led to studies in the area of what has been called cyborg anthropology
Cyborg anthropology
Cyborg anthropology is the discipline that studies the interaction between humanity and technology from an anthropological perspective. The discipline is relatively new compared to the broader field of anthropology, but offers novel insights on new technological advances and their effect on culture...

 and cyberculture
Cyberculture is the culture that has emerged, or is emerging, from the use of computer networks for communication, entertainment and business. It is also the study of various social phenomena associated with the Internet and other new forms of network communication, such as online communities,...

. A cyborg
A cyborg is a being with both biological and artificial parts. The term was coined in 1960 when Manfred Clynes and Nathan S. Kline used it in an article about the advantages of self-regulating human-machine systems in outer space. D. S...

, short for "cybernetic organism," is a being that is part cybernetic machine and part organism, a term coined by two NASA scientists, Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline (1960, reprinted in Gray 1995). These men suggested some of the advantages for space exploration
Space exploration
Space exploration is the use of space technology to explore outer space. Physical exploration of space is conducted both by human spaceflights and by robotic spacecraft....

 of altering the human body with machines.

The group's analysis of the cyborg is grounded in the findings of modern neuroscience. The perspective is grounded upon the presumption that human consciousness and culture are functions of the human nervous system. In other words, consciousness is as much the function of the brain as digestion is the function of the stomach and grasping the function of the hand. Their reasoning and research led ultimately to a four stage account of the evolution of the cyborg—a natural, but special case of the evolution of technology as a whole. The group hypothesizes that the emergence of the cyborg is following these stages:
  • Stage I: Replacement or augmentation of the human skeleton. Examples: wooden leg, hook for lost hand, armor, false teeth, etc. This has been going on for centuries.

  • Stage II: Replacement or augmentation of muscle. Examples: mechanical hand for lost hand, other prosthetic devices, mechanical heart valve, replacement of lens in eye, etc. Began to emerge in the mid-20th century.

  • Stage III: Replacement or augmentation of parts of the peripheral nervous system, autonomic nervous system and the neuroendocrine system. Examples: bionic arms and legs, pacemakers, automatic biochemical pumps, etc. Emerging in the later 20th century.

  • Stage IV: Replacement or augmentation of parts of the central nervous system. Examples: video "eyes" for blind, Air Force cyborg fighter plane control, etc. Rudimentary steps in the later 20th century.

Of course, this model is an over-simplification of the unfolding of the cyborg process, but it has the advantage of letting one see the progressive complexity involved. Stage I cyborg is equivalent to the external extension of the hands with a hammer, knife or other primitive tool. It essentially replaces or augments the skeletal physiology of the limbs. Thus the wooden leg and hook as prosthetic devices represent the more primitive innovations leading to the process of cyborg transformation. Portions of the nervous system have been eliminated with the loss of the amputated appendage.

Stage II cyborg sees the technical replacement or augmentation of both skeletal and muscle systems
Prosthetics in fiction
Prosthetics, the artificial replacement of organic limbs or organs, often play a role in fiction, particularly science fiction, as either plot points or to give a character a beyond normal appearance...

 in the body. This stage is equivalent to the external replacement of muscles with engines. The hand is replaced with a movable machine, perhaps manipulated by servomechanisms that are triggered by movements of particular muscle groups. The diseased heart valve is replaced by a mechanical valve. The lens of the eye is replaced by a synthetic lens, and so on. Such mechanisms depend upon intact neuro-muscular systems for their control.

At Stage III cyborg, technical penetration reaches the nervous system and replaces or augments neural structures in the peripheral, autonomic or endocrine systems involved in the regulation of internal states. This stage is equivalent to simple regulatory systems in the external world, such as the thermostat controlling the temperature of a heater. Clynes and Kline addressed their original cyborg paper to problems in space exploration that might be solved by Stage III cyborg measures. The "bionic" arms and legs of the Six Million Dollar Man are fictional examples of Stage III developments, as is the more realistic contemporary heart pacemaker.

Finally, Stage IV cyborg produces the replacement or augmentation of structures in the central nervous system
Neuroprosthetics is a discipline related to neuroscience and biomedical engineering concerned with developing neural prostheses....

. This stage is equivalent to the supplementation or replacement of human brain power with computers in industry. This stage may involve modification of structures mediating the cognitive aspects of emotion, as well as imagination, intuition, perception, rational thought, intentionality, language, etc. -- all of which require higher cortical processing. Examples of developments at this stage are technologies such as the miniature video camera "eyes" wired to an electrode array implanted in the visual cortex of certain blind people. And rumor has it that the United States Air Force underwrites research on technologies that would allow direct brain to aircraft interfacing for fighter pilots. Scientists at Tokyo University have fitted microprocessors to the nervous systems of cockroaches using electrodes, and are able to control the roaches’ behavior via computer link.

The point to emphasize in all of this is that the emergence of the cyborg is a process of progressive technological penetration into the body, eventually replacing or augmenting the structures that mediate the various physical and mental attributes that we normally consider natural to human beings, including emotion, sensory modes, imagination and rational thought, the organization of intentional acts, etc. Clearly then, progressive penetration into the cortex of the brain will inevitably result in the technical alteration
Neurotechnology is any technology that has a fundamental influence on how people understand the brain and various aspects of consciousness, thought, and higher order activities in the brain...

 of human consciousness (Laughlin 1997), its optimal functioning and development in childhood (Laughlin 2000).

Quantum brain

Biogenetic structural theory was expanded in the 1990s in order to account for how the human brain and mind may interact directly with the quantum universe. This step was an attempt to resolve anomalous evidence developed by a few scientists in quantum physics, parapsychology
The term parapsychology was coined in or around 1889 by philosopher Max Dessoir, and originates from para meaning "alongside", and psychology. The term was adopted by J.B. Rhine in the 1930s as a replacement for the term psychical research...

 and the ethnology of altered states of consciousness -- evidence that is claimed to mean that human consciousness is capable of producing causation at a distance
Causality is the relationship between an event and a second event , where the second event is understood as a consequence of the first....

 and communication through telepathic means (see e.g., Radin 1997). One proposal to answer to these anomalous experiences is that the human brain may operate somewhat as a quantum computer
Quantum computer
A quantum computer is a device for computation that makes direct use of quantum mechanical phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement, to perform operations on data. Quantum computers are different from traditional computers based on transistors...

 and is able to translate patterned activity in the quantum universe into information
Information in its most restricted technical sense is a message or collection of messages that consists of an ordered sequence of symbols, or it is the meaning that can be interpreted from such a message or collection of messages. Information can be recorded or transmitted. It can be recorded as...

, and conversely to transform information into patterned activity in the quantum universe (see Laughlin 1996, Throop and Laughlin 2001). However, there have been no convincing hypotheses on the physics of how quantum states might be sustained, and decoherence avoided, in the "messy", high-temperature environment of the brain. (See Max Tegmark
Max Tegmark
Max Tegmark is a Swedish-American cosmologist. Tegmark is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and belongs to the scientific directorate of the Foundational Questions Institute.-Early life:...

's, paper in Physical Review E,)

Cultural neurophenomenology

The group's most recent work has focused upon developing a cultural neurophenomenology (see Laughlin & Throop 2001, 2006, 2007, Throop & Laughlin 2002, 2003). Cultural neurophenomenology is the view that the most productive research strategy for discovering the invariant properties of consciousness is trained introspection
Introspection is the self-observation and reporting of conscious inner thoughts, desires and sensations. It is a conscious and purposive process relying on thinking, reasoning, and examining one's own thoughts, feelings, and, in more spiritual cases, one's soul...

. After all, they argue, our own experience and awareness are the only ones we have direct access to. Anti-introspectionist
Philosophy of mind
Philosophy of mind is a branch of philosophy that studies the nature of the mind, mental events, mental functions, mental properties, consciousness and their relationship to the physical body, particularly the brain. The mind-body problem, i.e...

 positions in science are claimed by its adherents to be primarily due to pre-scientific cultural hangovers from Church rulings against direct spiritual exploration—stemming historically from the so-called gnostic heresy. They consider behaviorist
Behaviorism , also called the learning perspective , is a philosophy of psychology based on the proposition that all things that organisms do—including acting, thinking, and feeling—can and should be regarded as behaviors, and that psychological disorders are best treated by altering behavior...

 reaction to Wilhelm Wundt
Wilhelm Wundt
Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt was a German physician, psychologist, physiologist, philosopher, and professor, known today as one of the founding figures of modern psychology. He is widely regarded as the "father of experimental psychology"...

's introspectionism in psychology to be merely a legitimation of these cultural attitudes.

Edmund Husserl taught a different approach to the study of consciousness. He argued that in order to differentiate in experience between what is given by the world and what is added by our own minds in the constitution of experience, we must cultivate a trained introspection. When we do so (in Husserl's terms, when we master the "phenomenological reduction") we discover there are invariant properties of mind that condition and order our experience. For instance, we generate a sense of time by retaining recently past experience ("retention") and anticipating the near future ("protention") and combining these with the actual, on-going "now point" arising and passing in our sensorium. Once we come to understand that this is how our mind works, the question then naturally arises, what is "real" time in the sense of time existing in extramental reality, independent of our experience and our knowledge? Also, how does the structure of our nervous system mediate this time sense, and how does culture impact upon our interpretations of temporality?

The group is now examining a variety of issues regarding experience. Thus far they have utilized this framework to explore the cross-cultural and neuropsychological factors in the experience of emotion, including the emotional aspects of higher states of consciousness, the role of myth
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

 and cosmology
Religious cosmology
A Religious cosmology is a way of explaining the origin, the history and the evolution of the universe based on the religious mythology of a specific tradition...

 in "trueing-up
Truth has a variety of meanings, such as the state of being in accord with fact or reality. It can also mean having fidelity to an original or to a standard or ideal. In a common usage, it also means constancy or sincerity in action or character...

" the relationship between experience and reality, the importance of altered states of consciousness in bolstering the veridicality of experience, the interpenetration of experience and extramental reality, and a modern re-interpretation of Émile Durkheim
Émile Durkheim
David Émile Durkheim was a French sociologist. He formally established the academic discipline and, with Karl Marx and Max Weber, is commonly cited as the principal architect of modern social science and father of sociology.Much of Durkheim's work was concerned with how societies could maintain...

's "collective effervescence
Collective Effervescence
Collective effervescence is a perceived energy formed by a gathering of people as might be experienced at a sporting event, a carnival, a rave, or a riot...


See also

  • Cyborg Anthropology
  • Charles D. Laughlin
    Charles Laughlin
    Charles D. Laughlin, Jr. is known primarily for having co-founded a school of neuroanthropological theory called Biogenetic Structuralism. Laughlin is an emeritus professor of anthropology and religion at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada...

  • Cyberculture
    Cyberculture is the culture that has emerged, or is emerging, from the use of computer networks for communication, entertainment and business. It is also the study of various social phenomena associated with the Internet and other new forms of network communication, such as online communities,...

  • Eugene G. d'Aquili
    Eugene G. d'Aquili
    Eugene G. d'Aquili was a research psychiatrist who specialized in studying members of religious communities...

  • Robert A. Rubinstein
    Robert A. Rubinstein
    Robert A. Rubinstein is a cultural anthropologist whose work bridges the areas of political and medical anthropology, and the history and theory of the discipline. He is Professor of Anthropology and International Relations at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University.-Education and...

  • Neuroanthropology
    Neuroanthropology is the study of culture and the brain. This field explores how new findings in the brain sciences help us understand the interactive effects of culture and biology on human development and behavior...

  • Neurophenomenology
    Neurophenomenology refers to a scientific research program aimed to address the hard problem of consciousness in a pragmatic way. It combines neuroscience with phenomenology in order to study experience, mind, and consciousness with an emphasis on the embodied condition of the human mind...