Culture and Cognition

Mission Statement

The Rutgers Culture and Cognition program was ranked 6th in the nation by US News and World Report Our students and faculty are publishing in some of the field’s top journals and presses and our students are being placed as assistant professors, post docs and research analysts in top ranked universities, colleges and think tanks including Princeton University, the University of Chicago, Ohio State University, the University of Michigan, the University of Toronto, City University of New York, the University of Delaware, Goucher College, Grinnell College, Holy Cross College, Lafayette College, the Pew Foundation, the Rand Corporation and many others.

Culture and cognition is now a well-established and nationally recognized program within the Sociology Department.  Those working in this area use a cultural lens to explore the ideas and schematizations, the symbols, artifacts and meanings, the norms and practices, and the institutions and patterns of interactions by which society is constructed, sustained, and transformed.    

In addition to addressing the cultural institutions that have always been central to cultural sociology programs (i.e. the arts, the economy, politics, religion, science, etc.), our program also incorporates theoretical and empirical attentions to the relationship between the social, the cultural, the historical, and the mental – an aspect that makes us unique among cultural sociology programs across the nation.  

Our program emphasizes several different intellectual themes and foci:

  • Culture and the Mind

Many of our faculty and students study the social and cultural aspects of thinking.  This includes the social foundations of mental processes such as attending, disattending and denying; classifying and schematization; framing, formatting, mapping and sequencing; perceiving; symbolizing; remembering and forgetting; projecting to the future; and time reckoning.  Many are also concerned with the relationship between cognitive structures and social structures and the intersection of cognitive sociology and cognitive science.

  • Culture, Communication, and Deliberation

Those working in these areas study discourse, communication, strategic interaction and politics.  They explore information complexity and decision making as well as knowledge systems, narrative analysis, symbolic codes and symbolic interaction.

  • Culture and Knowledge Production

Faculty and students working in this area examine the sociocultural foundations of knowledge production and claims to expertise, whether it be in science, medicine, grassroots movements, or formal organizations.  Research agendas include the construction of epistemic authority, knowledge brokerage, the scientization of politics, citation patterns, public controversies, processes of diagnosis and prognosis, medicalization, uncertainty and risk management, and professional boundary work.                           

  • Cultural and Structural Intersections

In examining the relationship between culture and structure, many of our faculty and students study institutions, power relations, cultural change, the discursive framing of relationships, the cultural properties and influences of social networks, the relationship between micro-level cultural practices and macro-level social transformation, and the phenomenology of everyday life.

  • Culture and Identity

A number of faculty and students study processes of identity construction at the level of the individual and the collective.  Research agendas focus on areas as varied as class, gender, race, religion and sexuality and attend to the identity of people, groups, objects, places, and events.  Strategies of identity construction addressed by scholars working in this area include consumption, social movement frames and scripts, and the construction of symbolic boundaries.

  • Culture and Technology

Faculty and students working in this area address a variety of media including television, the Internet, social networking technologies, and video gaming.  In addition, many address scientific and technological innovation.  Projects address topics as varied as the content and structure of media messages, the framing and formatting of messages, the lived experience of various technologies, the boundaries between politics and science, and the impact of technology on space, place, and community.

  • Culture and the Body

Faculty and students working in this area make the body a focus of their analysis, whether they are studying the construction of health and illness, emotions, the experience of stigma, identity, or the embodiment of social and cultural practices. Projects address neurobiology and identity, embodiment and sexual subcultures, embodied social movements, stigma and obesity, and media representations of bodies.




Departmental Chair
Julie Phillips

Graduate Director
Steven Brechin