Re: [xmca] Situated cognition vs. Socio-cultural theory

From: David H Kirshner (
Date: Tue Jul 11 2006 - 12:38:54 PDT

I don't know of an article, Mary, but my impression always has been that
situated cognition theory was more attractive to cognitivists because it
was new, and was still articulating its basic constructs that could then be
shaped to have "manageable" discontinuities with cognitive science (see,
for example, Greeno, Moore, & Smith, 1993). Adopting a sociocultural
perspective would have meant completely abandoning their former expertise
in order to adopt an already-articulated set of constructs with no
particular tie in to cognitive science perspectives. An interesting
counterexample to this thesis is to be found in the work of Hirst and
Manier (1995), cognitive scientists who did espouse a sociocultural
perspective. But what's not clear from the cited article is whether they
were just looking for a platform from which to criticize cognitive
assumptions. If one doesn't develop a new program of research, manageable
discontinuities may not be necessary.


Greeno, J. G., Moore, J. L., & Smith, D. R. (1993). Transfer of situated
learning. In D. K. Detterman & R. J. Sternberg (Eds.), Transfer on trial:
Intelligence, cognition, and instruction (pp. 99-167). Norwood, NJ: Ablex
Publishing Corporation.

Hirst, W, & Manier, D. (1995). Opening vistas for cognitive psychology. In
      L. M. W. Martin, K. Nelson, & E. Tobach (Eds.), Sociocultural
      psychology: Theory and practice of doing and knowing (pp. 89-124).
      New York: Cambridge University Press.

                      "Mary K. Bryson"
                      <mary.bryson who-is-at ubc. To: XMCA <>
                      ca> cc: (bcc: David H Kirshner/dkirsh/LSU)
                      Sent by: Subject: [xmca] Situated cognition vs. Socio-cultural
                      xmca-bounces who-is-at webe theory
                      07/11/2006 12:40
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                      "eXtended Mind,

Hi All,

I am working on a course syllabus, and thinking about the separate but
related trajectories of situated cognition and socio-cultural theory. At
some point in the early nineties, lots of former cognitivists started to
sound a lot like socio-culturalists. So where do these two trajectories
intersect and where do they remain forever apart?

Someone may have written a really great review article or chapter that
compares these two theoretical perspectives. If you know of such a text,
could you let me know? I will so appreciate that.

Dr. Mary K. Bryson, Associate Professor and Graduate Coordinator, ECPS,
Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia
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