1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Culture, Mind, and Language

Did you ever stop to wonder how your personality, emotions, and strategies for cognitive problem-solving might be influenced by the culture in which you grew up, or the language that you first learned to speak? At the very heart of classical anthropological theory is the proposal that culturally derived categories do play a role in guiding our habitual thinking or “worldview,” and in organizing our experiences of the social—ultimately coming full circle to influence our view of “mind” itself. Understanding the ways that cultural categories inform human outlooks in this way is crucial to successfully managing interactions of all kinds in our increasingly globalized world. Anthropologists at Virginia investigate the interplay of culture, mind and language in many different ways. We mobilize new media to document the range of structural variation in the world’s languages—from Papua New Guinea to the Swahili Coast and the lands of the modern Maya. We partner with interdisciplinary Cognitive Science teams to test the effects of language on thought, and we make ourselves at home in locations as diverse as the islands of the South Pacific and the cities of the Middle East, in order to understand the eco-logics of social systems around the globe.