Embedding Cognition: Judgment and Choice in an Interdependent and Dynamic World

Elke U. Weber, Sara M. Constantino, Maja Schlüter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Society is facing pressing interrelated, multilevel, and systemic challenges. Human consumption patterns are driving biodiversity loss and climate change, with unevenly distributed impacts that exacerbate preexisting inequalities. Structural or systems-level solutions to these challenges depend on group- and individual-level change, and vice versa. Although cognitive psychology has advanced our understanding of individual and group-level decision-making, it rarely links these microlevel processes and behaviors to network- and systems-level structures, resulting in a fragmented theory of how individual and collective action can drive broader social change. For example, psychology has established that physical, social, and historical contexts shape perception, reasoning, and decision-making but has largely ignored the dynamic and interdependent relationship between behavior and contexts. In this review, we urge researchers to move beyond a focus on static contexts and individual and group-level cognition to incorporate deeper theorizing about the temporal dynamics and feedbacks between individuals and the broader contexts in which they are embedded. We review literature emphasizing the role of context in shaping psychological processes as well as emerging research that considers individuals as embedded in complex adaptive systems. Complex adaptive systems frameworks are well suited to study the dynamic and interdependent relationship among individuals and the broader systems and structures they inhabit. The integration of research in psychology with these perspectives may thus offer traction in identifying solution pathways to complex, multilevel challenges by pointing to theories and methods that integrate across levels of analysis and account for coupled nature-society systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)328-336
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Volume32
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology

Keywords

  • agent based models
  • complex adaptive systems
  • context-dependence
  • embedded cognition
  • social tipping
  • social-ecological systems

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