What is your background?
I’m the sociology and cognitive science editor, so I’m really an honorary member of our science group, but it’s an honor I’m proud to have, and it speaks to the interdisciplinary way that we work here at Princeton. In 2007 I completed a PhD in political science at the New School for Social Research, having written a dissertation on the economist Albert Hirschman’s classic book The Passions and the Interests (Princeton, 1977) on the intellectual origins of capitalism and its relationship to Enlightenment beliefs about reason and emotion. Though our understanding of human nature has obviously developed since the eighteenth century, we are in many ways asking the very same questions. To that end, I wonder what Adam Smith would have done with an fMRI scanner?
What are you plans for the cognitive science program?
Our cognitive science publishing program at Princeton began with my arrival in mid-2008. We published our first discipline catalog in 2010 and beginning in 2012, we plan to exhibit the list yearly at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. We’ve made big strides in a short amount of time. As indicative of our 2010 catalog, cognitive science at Princeton University Press is a broad, well-rounded collection of psychology and neuroscience, philosophy, biology, and social science. There are fruitful connections to be made between fields that are perceived as divergent, such as organizational sociology and animal behavior or cognitive neuroscience and complexity theory or philosophy of mind and cultural anthropology. My hope is that our cognitive science program will be perceived as a catalyst in bringing researchers and readers together in our continued quest to understand mind, brain, and behavior.
What makes for an exemplary cognitive science book?
Cognitive science is an interdisciplinary field that brings together researchers from the three academic cultures – humanities, social science, and science. The ideal cognitive science book draws on research from all three, providing us with a clearer understanding of the relationship between the brain, the mind, individual human behavior, social interaction, and social institutions. I find the most engaging books in cognitive science to be ones where an author self-consciously speaks beyond his or her specialized research to explain an aspect of behavior or answer a specific question or problem, and in the process, influencing research in adjacent fields. Here are a few recent examples: