30 November 2010

Multimodal Cultural Models

Although modern theories on perception, cognition and (inter)action have begun to consider human cognitive practices as multimodal processes (Barsalou, 2008; Semin & Smith, 2008) as far as I know, there is no theory on multimodal cultural models of perception, cognition and (inter)action. Thus, I refer to the traditional definition of cultural models (Kronenfeld, 2008).

Cultural models (Kronenfeld, 2008) are driven by socially shared knowledge (Goldman, 2006) of specific epistemic communities (van Dijk, in press). Hence, how people interpret multimodal features of their environment (e.g. actors’ goals, cause-and-effect interactions) is in terms of concepts and knowledge previously acquired (Wyer & Skull, 1994). We normally make inferences about features of the information which were not present in the multimodal information provided and, even more, we tend to build connections among these features (Sperber, 2000; Wyer & Skull, 1994). That is to say, we are endowed with the capacity to construct representations and meta-representations (e.g. representations about others’ mental representations, intentions, etc.) which, in many cases, are selections from and elaborations on the multimodal information on which they are based. The interpretation of perceptual and conceptual features of the social and material environment relies on cultural and multimodal shared knowledge (e.g. diagrams and other visual images, sounds, smells, language, gestures), which is learnt, structured and transmitted to us from the time we are born. Thus, the individual’s conceptualization of the ongoing experience is driven by the values, motivations, emotions and norms of the social and material environment we inhabit.


Barsalou, L.W. (2008). Grounded cognition. Annual Review of Psychology 59, 617-645.

Goldman, A. I. (2006). Simulating Minds. The Philosophy, Psychology and Neuroscience of Mindreading. Oxford: Oxford Universiy Press.

Kronenfeld, D. (2008). Cultural models. Intercultural Pragmatics 5 (1), 67-74.

Semin, G.R. & Smith, E.R. (2008). Embodied Grounding: Social, Cognitive, Affective, and Neuroscientific Approaches. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Sperber, D. (ed.) (2000). Metarepresentations: An Interdisciplinary Perspective. New York: Oxford University Press.

Sperber, D. & Wilson, D. (1995). Relevance: Communication and Cognition. Oxford: Blackwell

van Dijk, T. A. (in press). Discourse, knowledge, power and politics. Towards critical epistemic discourse analysis. In C. Hart (ed.), Critical Discourse Studies in Context and Cognition. Amsterdam: John Benjamins

Wyer, R. S. & Srull, T.K. (1994). Handbook of Social Cognition, Vol. 1: Basic Processes. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

No comments: