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Chapter 3. “Effort After Meaning” in Everyday Life

Linda C. Garro

Subject Anthropology » Psychological Anthropology

Key-Topics meaning

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631225973.2004.00007.x


Cognition, defined concisely by psychologist Ulric Neisser, is “the activity of knowing: the acquisition, organization, and use of knowledge” (1976: 1). Casting a wide net, D'Andrade portrays the study of cognition within anthropology as concerned with “the relation between human society and human thought” (1995: 1). The implications of “the need and ability to live in the human medium of culture” ( Cole 1996 : 1) for an understanding of cognition is a historically enduring topic ( D'Andrade 1995 ; Hutchins 1995 ; Jahoda 1982 ; Shweder 1984 ; Shore 1996 ; Cole 1996 ). The broad range of orientations points in many directions and is underpinned by a diversity of perspectives concerning culture. Some time ago, the psychologist Frederick Bartlett pointed out that remembering, a form of cognitive activity, “is a function of daily life, and must have developed to meet the demands of daily life” (1932: 16). He maintained “it is fitting to speak of every human cognitive reaction – perceiving, imagining, remembering, thinking and reasoning – as an effort after meaning ” (1932: 44), which does not necessarily involve conscious effort or even awareness. Judging it impossible to divest meaning from cognitive activities, Bartlett rejected the prevailing approach to memory which attempted to control for meaning and prior experience by investigating the learning and forgetting of artificial ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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