Cognition, Learning, and Social Change

Oct 27, 2000Oct 28, 2000

Nobel Laureate Douglass North worked with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and the KNEXUS research project at Stanford University to host a series of workshops on Knowledge, Social Change, and Economic Performance. The purpose of these workshops was to begin to develop hypotheses about the dynamic relationships between cognition and social change. Since winning the Nobel Prize in 1993, Douglass North has challenged the social sciences to better understand the cognitive bases for individual decision-making and to provide better theories of social and economic change. These workshops were the beginning of an interdisciplinary exercise in positive, empirically based social science among a select group of scholars interested in these matters. These workshops were intended to lay a foundation for a richer theoretical and empirical account of the role of cognition in the construction of culture, institutions, and organizations, and what the implications from that might be for thinking about social change and the performance of economic and political institutions generally. This first conference focused mainly on learning processes, the role of external representations and distributed (social) cognition.

The variety of themes that were discussed could be classified under four headings: Internal brain processes and the role of binding; the role of external symbols in cognition; social aspects of cognition; and the role of beliefs in cognition.