Cognitive neuroscience has become one of the most cutting-edge fields in technoscience across the globe. Now entering an exciting era is a sub-discipline known as social cognitive neuroscience (SCN), or the biologically grounded complement of social and cognitive psychology focused on the neural basis of human thought and social behavior.
Combining ethnographic fieldwork with concepts that have risen out of previous studies in the cultural anthropology of science and technology, this case study of the Social Cognition Laboratory (SCL) examines the everyday space, practices, and individuals that give rise to the contemporary world of SCN.
By rendering science and technology cultural activities that may be critiqued through an anthropological lens, I orient SCN as a scientific subculture that is simultaneously encultured. This exercise in the demystification of this dominating and popularly imagined discipline seeks to accomplish two goals. First, I illustrate the nuances inherent to this emergent field of “hard” technoscience, which seeks to shed light on aspects of the social world that have been historically subject to investigation by the social sciences and humanities. Second, I challenge prevailing, computer-based epistemologies of self and world produced by concepts and research in SCN. Addressing how these understandings are historically constituted, culturally constructed, and inherently fluid is critical in so far as brain-based notions of personhood continue to guide modern conceptions of self and the social world.