Situated sociality and cultural dynamics: a puzzle of necessary dependency and perceived dissociation

Yoshihisa Kashima, Boyka Bratanova

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Humans are unique among primates in their ability to form, maintain, and transform a large-scale collective. We are capable of living generally peacefully in a very large collective that consists not only of tens and hundreds, but of thousands and millions of individuals who do not, and cannot, have face-to-face direct interaction with each other. What enables us to have this uniquely human sociality? If Dunbar’s (1996) conjecture is right and the human neocortex has evolved to sustain groups of the size around 150, it is an evolutionary puzzle and feat that humans are capable of sustaining much larger groups. It is all the more remarkable because we appear to do so without constant reminders to maintain the fabric of such large-scale collectives. To be sure, large-scale collectives such as nation states typically enshrine institutionalized reminders in symbolic forms like national ags, national ceremonies, and commemorations of the war dead (e.g., Connerton, 1989; Wertsch, 2002). These subtle and mundane forms of nationalism may help to form and maintain the citizens’ social identication with their countries (e.g., Billig, 1995). Yet, people’s perceptions about their societies appear to be highly dissociated from the experiences of their everyday circumstances and routinized activities, as we will discuss later. Even in the absence of our conscious efforts to maintain our large-scale society and even in the face of our psychological detachment from it, our mundane social activities appear to be able to sustain the large-scale collective. How is this possible?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGrounding sociality
Subtitle of host publicationneurons, mind, and culture
EditorsGun R. Semin, Gerald Echterhoff
Place of PublicationHove
PublisherPsychology Press
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9780203842553
ISBN (Print)9781848728998
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2010


  • Situated sociality
  • Cultural dynamics


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