Transnational Professionals

This review answers recent calls to consider the transformative role of transnational professionals in contemporary globalization. It departs from the dominant perspective, which views professions as constrained by states’ geographical boundaries and by organizations such as nationally based professional associations. Transnational professionals have particular characteristics: they combine high-level abstract knowledge, high mobility across national and organizational settings, social and cultural capital, and distributed agency to shape global practices. Over the past two decades, a vibrant research stream has emerged on these professionals and their boundary-crossing work, raising new questions about agency, territoriality, and power. We examine transnational professionals across a range of occupations and sectors, as well as world regions, extracting the implications for sociological theory and methods. We outline a scholarly agenda highlighting the opportunity structures and likely trajectories for those who locate themselves in transnational professional spaces, suggesting how they can be investigated in future research.

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Posted in professional, Transnational | Tagged ,

Human Creativity and Consciousness: Unintended Consequences of the Brain’s Extraordinary Energy Efficiency?

It is proposed that both human creativity and human consciousness are (unintended) consequences of the human brain’s extraordinary energy efficiency. The topics of creativity and consciousness are treated separately, though have a common sub-structure. It is argued that creativity arises from a synergy between two cognitive modes of the human brain (which broadly coincide with Kahneman’s Systems 1 and 2). In the first, available energy is spread across a relatively large network of neurons. As such, the amount of energy per active neuron is so small that the operation of such neurons is susceptible to thermal (ultimately quantum decoherent) noise. In the second, available energy is focussed on a small enough subset of neurons to guarantee a deterministic operation. An illustration of how this synergy can lead to creativity with implications for computing in silicon are discussed. Starting with a discussion of the concept of free will, the notion of consciousness is defined in terms of an awareness of what are perceived to be nearby counterfactual worlds in state space. It is argued that such awareness arises from an interplay between our memories on the one hand, and quantum physical mechanisms (where, unlike in classical physics, nearby counterfactual worlds play an indispensable dynamical role) in the ion channels of neural networks. As with the brain’s susceptibility to noise, it is argued that in situations where quantum physics plays a role in the brain, it does so for reasons of energy efficiency. As an illustration of this definition of consciousness, a novel proposal is outlined as to why quantum entanglement appears so counter-intuitive.

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Posted in Consciousness, Human creativity | Tagged ,

Implications for Social Impact of Dialogic Teaching and Learning

The science of dialogic teaching and learning has especially flourished over the last four decades across age-groups, cultures, and contexts. A wide array of studies has examined the uniqueness of dialogue as a powerful tool to lead effective instructional practices, transform the socio-cultural context and people’s mindsets, among many others. However, despite the efforts to extend the benefits of this approach, certain difficulties exist which have hindered the consolidation of dialogic pedagogies in the classroom. This review discusses the implications for the social impact of scientific developments on dialogic teaching and learning. Particularly, an overview of the state of the art on dialogic education is presented. Social improvements in academic attainment and social cohesion are some of the fundamental issues discussed. Those are especially relevant to address crucial needs in education and solve some of the most pressing social problems. A communicative mix-methods approach emerges as one of the critical aspects of this field of research in educational psychology to achieve social impact. Some limitations, such as teachers sustaining different forms of monologic discourse, and challenges for a broader impact are discussed in this review.

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Posted in Dialogic pedagogy, Dialogic teaching, Dialogical learning | Tagged , ,

Collective Feelings: Or, the Impressions Left by Others

This article examines ‘collective feelings’ by considering how ‘others’ create impressions on the surfaces of bodies. Rather than considering ‘collective feeling’ as ‘fellow feeling’ or in terms of feeling ‘for’ the collective, the article suggests that how we respond to others in intercorporeal encounters creates the impression of a collective body. In other words, how we feel about others is what aligns us with a collective, which paradoxically ‘takes shape’ only as an effect of such alignments. The article considers different examples of racism in which a particular other is held in place by being aligned with other others. The ‘moment of contact’ is shaped by past histories of contact, which allows the proximity of a racial other to be perceived as threatening, at the same time as it re-shapes the bodies in the contact zone of the encounter. Feelings rehearse associations that are already in place, in the way in which they ‘read’ the proximity of others, at the same time as they establish the ‘truth’ of the reading. The article extends its analysis by showing that bodily proximity is not required to create the impressions of others, and offers an analysis of ‘collective feelings’ within virtual communities of global nomads. Proximity does not require physical co-presence: the collective can ‘surface’ through giving up on local attachments (where the screen becomes a substitute for the skin). The article concludes that collective feelings are not feelings that the collective ‘has’, as if the collective was a subject. Rather the collective is an effect of the impressions left by others on the surfaces of skins.

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Posted in Collective, Feeling | Tagged ,

The University Mental Health Charter

The mental health of university students and staff has been a focus of increasing concern in the UK, with a weight of evidence suggesting that large numbers of students and staff are experiencing poor mental health, while a part of their university. The number of students declaring a pre-existing mental illness to their university has more than doubled since 2014/15 (1). There have also been increases in demand for services to support student mental health – with reports suggesting that some universities are seeing a doubling in the number of students accessing support. Research conducted to support the creation of the Charter suggests that this increase in demand is felt across the spectrum of mental illness. Both academic and support services staff report that they are responding to increasing numbers of students experiencing high levels of serious mental illness, including suicidal ideation, self–harm and episodes of psychosis.

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Posted in Mental health, Student, University | Tagged , ,

Learning to Be Conscious

Consciousness remains a formidable challenge. Different theories of consciousness have proposed vastly different mechanisms to account for a phenomenal experience. Here, appealing to aspects of global workspace theory, higher-order theories, social theories, and predictive processing, we introduce a novel framework: the self-organizing metarepresentation account (SOMA), in which consciousness is viewed as something that the brain learns to do. By this account, the brain continuously and unconsciously learns to redescribe its own activity to itself, so developing systems of metarepresentations that qualify target first-order representations. Thus, experiences only occur in experiencers that have learned to know they possess certain first-order states and that have learned to care more about certain states than about others. In this sense, consciousness is the brain’s (unconscious, embodied, enactive, nonconceptual) theory about itself.

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Posted in Conscious, Consciousness | Tagged ,

Social Learning Strategies: Bridge-Building between Fields

While social learning is widespread, indiscriminate copying of others is rarely beneficial. Theory suggests that individuals should be selective in what, when, and whom they copy, by following ‘social learning strategies’ (SLSs). The SLS concept has stimulated extensive experimental work, integrated theory, and empirical findings, and created the impetus to the social learning and cultural evolution fields. However, the SLS concept needs updating to accommodate recent findings that individuals switch between strategies flexibly, that multiple strategies are deployed simultaneously, and that there is no one-to-one correspondence between psychological heuristics deployed and resulting population-level patterns. The field would also benefit from the simultaneous study of mechanism and function. SLSs provide a useful vehicle for bridge-building between cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and evolutionary biology.

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Social cognition and the human brain

Humans are exceedingly social animals, but the neural underpinnings of social cognition and behavior are not well understood. Studies in humans and other primates have pointed to several structures that play a key role in guiding social behaviors: the amygdala, ventromedial frontal cortices, and right somatosensory-related cortex, among others. These structures appear to mediate between perceptual representations of socially relevant stimuli, such as the sight of conspecifics, and retrieval of knowledge (or elicitation of behaviors) that such stimuli can trigger. Current debates concern the extent to which social cognition draws upon processing specialized for social information, and the relative contributions made to social cognition by innate and acquired knowledge.

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Posted in Human brain, Social cognition | Tagged ,

The Need for Sleep in the Adolescent Brain

Sleep is a basic need. Mounting evidence suggests this is particularly true during adolescence, a developmental period involving substantial changes in the brain regions supporting cognition, learning, and emotion. Although sleep loss is a normative psychosocially and biologically driven developmental process, it occurs alongside behaviors that characterize adolescence, including deepening cognitive sophistication, improved emotion regulation, and intensifying social cognition, calling into question how sleep may impact these developmental milestones. This review synthesizes growing research aimed at addressing this timely question. It presents evidence that neurodevelopmental changes in brain structure, function, and sleep physiology mechanistically link the relationship between sleep and cognitive ability.

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Posted in Adolescents, Brains, Sleep | Tagged , ,

Social cognition in the first year

Although the study of infancy has answered many important questions about the human capacity for social cognition, the relatively young field of developmental social cognition is far from reaching its adulthood. With the merging of developmental, behavioral and neurocognitive sciences, some growing pains are in store. New work demonstrates that research into early social-cognitive development must integrate various research fields and methods in order to achieve a more robust understanding of the nature and parameters of human social cognition.

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Posted in Infants, Social cognition, Toddler | Tagged , ,