Social institutions as tools in normative cognition


Humans have the unique ability to have goals, cooperate according to plans and in respect of norms and rules (football is a good modern example). This ability is based on 1) collective intentionality among participants, 2) distributed cognition of the shared plan and 3) normative cognition in the ability to follow rules and 4) evaluate practice in relation to norms. In cooperative social interaction, social institutions function by uniting these 4 dimensions. Social institutions ‘make us smart’ collectively when constitutive rules and regulative rules on the socio-cultural level are internalized as constitutive and regulative representations on the cognitive level (knowing ’what counts as what’). Social institutions are cognitive tools with force because they ‘store’ and ‘radiate’ normative cognition and often ‘crystallize’ in rituals, e.g. weddings (fusing 1-4). The functions of normative cognition in social institutions should be an important subject in cognitive anthropology.

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