About this Research Topic
Psychology straddles areas from the biological to the social and cultural. Within that vast range, there have been recent explosions of interest in neuropsychology, genetics and epigenetics, and the evolutionary bases of mindedness. Correspondingly, there have been conceptual innovations and new empirical evidence in relation to the embodied, social and discursive processes supporting mind and personhood. Simultaneously, awareness of developmental processes and their dynamic interweaving of genetic, physiological, neurological, social and cultural elements has also increased.
Might these many developments help ‘connect the dots’ between the diverse aspects of mindedness and the contexts within which it arises? Whilst it seems clear that mind is co-constituted of both biological and socio-cultural processes, how might we bring these disparate realms of knowledge together? In a number of these areas, suggestive integrative possibilities have been explored (e.g., predictive processing, embodied and situated cognition, dynamic developmental systems theory) and insights such as a focus on action, ‘knowledge as skills’, embeddedness and connectivity have been pursued across a range of disciplines.
Bringing such possibilities – and others - together in the same forum provides an opportunity to re-visit a recurring question within theoretical psychology: The claimed lack of - and possibilities for - theoretical synthesis and unity.
This topic will consider the current prospects for a conceptual synthesis or convergence of research focused on understanding mind and mindedness. It is particularly concerned with how proposals that emphasise action-orientation, process, embeddedness and connectivity – especially between explanatory ‘levels’ – might suggest integrative conceptual options.
Questions of interest include (but are not limited to):
• What conceptual connections or parallels exist between analyses in the diverse perspectives that focus on mind, from the neurobiological, evolutionary, genetic and physiological to the individual, personal and socio-cultural?
• What (if any) are the integrative potentials of the new ‘neuro’ sub-disciplines e.g. neuropsychoanalysis or neurophenomenology?
• What are the most promising empirical and theoretical connections being made between ‘levels’ of psychological phenomena (e.g., genetic, neurological, cognitive, social)?
• To what extent do studies of development provide viable models of integration?
• Currently, what are the most significant empirical and theoretical obstacles to such a synthesis?
• Are there in principle conceptual obstacles to such a synthesis?
• Does (sometimes covert) lack of agreement over what ‘mind’ is constitute a profound difficulty for attempts at integration?
• What conceptual and philosophical resources do we need if we are to pursue projects of integration?
• What unintended consequences for the discipline might flow from attempts at synthesis or integration?
• Would conceptual synthesis itself threaten a comprehensive understanding of mind?
The topic also exposes broader questions about the purpose of psychological research, the epistemological and ontological commitments required, and the relevant social, political and economic contexts.
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