the “mind” concept is not as universal as one might imagine. non-western cultures associate different characteristics with the invisible aspects of personhood. In Korean, the concept “maum” replaces the concept “mind”. “Maum” has no English counterpart, but is sometimes translated as “heart”. The Japanese have yet another concept for the invisible part of the person – “kokoro”.”Kokoro” is a “seat of emotion, and also, a source of culturally valued attention to, and empathy with, other people”. Yet, the notion of “cognition” in contemporary studies is informed by western conceptions of the “mind”, characterized by thinking, knowing, reasoning and other such ‘invisible’ abilities/properties. Andrew D. Wilson and Sabrina Golonka argue,
In a larger sense, the fact that there seems to be a universal belief that people consist of visible and invisible aspects explains much of the appeal of cognitive psychology over behaviourism. Cognitive psychology allows us to invoke invisible, internal states as causes of behaviour, which fits nicely with the broad, cultural assumption that the mind causes us to act in certain ways.
To the extent that you agree that the modern conception of “cognition” is strongly related to the Western, English-speaking view of “the mind”, it is worth asking what cognitive psychology would look like if it had developed in Japan or Russia. Would text-books have chapter headings on the ability to connect with other people (kokoro) or feelings or morality (dusa) instead of on decision-making and memory? This possibility highlights the potential arbitrariness of how we’ve carved up the psychological realm – what we take for objective reality is revealed to be shaped by culture and language.
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