Chapter 10



Whoever, then, wishes to analyze the basic concepts of the social sciences must be willing to embark on a laborious philosophical journey, for the meaning-structure of the social world can only be deduced from the most primitive and general characteristics of consciousness.

Alfred Schutz, The Phenomenology of the Social World

What is particularly important, the marginal situations of the life of the individual (marginal, that is, in not being included in the reality of everyday existence in society) are also encompassed by the symbolic universe. Such situations are experienced in dreams and fantasies as provinces of meaning detached from everyday life, and endowed with a peculiar reality of their own. ...The symbolic universe provides order for the subjective apprehension of biographical experience. Experiences belonging to different spheres of reality are integrated by incorporation in the same, overarching universe of meaning.

Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality

T he human brain is inherently social, and hence so is the human experience it mediates. There is virtually no mundane experience had by humans anywhere on the planet that is not either thoroughly permeated by social influence, or ripe with social implications. Yet the literature on meditation and contemplation is typically oriented toward techniques and insights by means of which the individual may realize some essential quality of mind, spirit, divinity, or consciousness. This orientation in the meditation literature may lead to the erroneous impression that society and culture have somehow been left behind and therefore that they are of no consequence to our understanding of contemplation.

But a careful reading of what we have previously written here (and elsewhere; e.g., Laughlin, McManus and d'Aquili 1990: Chapter 8) about contemplation, and its psychophysiological, experiential and interpretive concommitants, will lead one to see that there exist social and cultural dimensions to every aspect of consciousness and contemplation that we have thus far addressed. Whether we have been talking about the Buddhist training of contemplatives, the Husserlian notion of the "natural attitude," the meaning of images, the development of gender attribution, our orientation toward space and time, or the access to and interpretation of intuitive insights, the presumption has been that there exists a sociocultural context. The neurognostic structure of the human nervous system always matures within the dual constraints of the inherent nature of the structure and the physical and social context in which the system develops. An interesting question we may wish to ask, then, is what can mature contemplation tell us about the essential aspects of the social experience?


In this chapter we want to address this question by discussing the role of mature contemplation in studying social consciousness. We want to focus upon the neurophenomenology of the social experience. This focus requires that we first come to fully appreciate that what it means to say "the human brain is inherently social" is in part that the essential qualities of the social experience are "already there" in the Husserlian sense (what some existentialists liked to call "existence before essence") for the pre- and perinatal child, and that the future development of social relationships is founded upon growth and transformations of these early neurognostic social models.

To say that the brain is "inherently social" also means that we hold this "already there" quality of social consciousness in common with other social mammals, especially those of the primate order. The primate order includes the species of social mammals closest in evolutionary development to our own species; the old world monkeys and the anthropoid apes. Most of these species have social brains; which is to say that they are born into a social world that is inherently "already there" for the infant, and they develop a cognized environment that mediates an ever more complex field of social experience. The newborn and infant brain is already "in-formed" to process conspecifics as distinctly different sensorial objects.

Numerous theories in the human sciences have addressed the question of the social influences upon individual development, historically including such diverse approaches as those of William James, Sigmund Freud, George Herbert Mead, (the early) Karl Marx, and Max Weber, and reflected in the anthropological theories of Margaret Mead, Abram Kardiner, Victor Barnouw and A.F.C. Wallace. But none of these theories (James being the possible exception) have been grounded in mature contemplation, have been applicable to a biological or neurophenomenological perspective, or have recognized the important significance of pre- and perinatal cognitive-perceptual competence.

However, the social phenomenology of Alfred Schutz may be more than a little useful for our purposes (see Schutz 1967, Schutz and Luckmann 1973, 1989, Berger and Luckmann 1966). So we will use his work as a point of departure in discussing the importance of mature contemplation to the study of the social experience. (1) For those of you who are unfamiliar with Schutz's writings, I will briefly characterize his view of the social experience, and then will show the applicability of a social neurophenomenology in tracing the structure of social experience in both the young child and the adult.


Alfred Schutz advocated the study of society from the stance of a special Husserlian reduction (or "epoche") -- what Schutz called the phenomenology of intersubjectivity (Schutz 1967:139-176). This reduction is the same as Husserl's phenomenological reduction, except that the object of scrutiny is my relationship to another person, rather than some other object in the world. The other person (known hereafter as the capital-O "Other") is a very special object, and requires its own distinct approach in order to intuit the essential qualities of that relationship.

In order to phenomenologically study this intersubjective relationship with the Other, I must first suspend my uncritical belief in the "taken-for-granted" aspects of the natural social attitude. This natural social attitude (or natural attitude toward the social lifeworld; see Schutz and Luckmann 1973:3-15) depends upon my face-to-face encounter with the Other in direct experience. This face-to-face encounter requires that the Other be in the same space and time as I am -- that our respective streams of consciousness be flowing in synchrony. It also requires my recognition of the Other as the same as me in all essential respects, including the Other being conscious and symbolically expressing that consciousness to me. As Schutz put it:

I speak of another person as within reach of my direct experience when he shares with me a community of space and a community of time. He shares a community of space with me when he is present in person and I am aware of him as such, and, moreover, when I am aware of him as this person himself , this particular individual, and of his body as the field upon which play the symptoms of his inner consciousness. He shares a community of time with me when his experience is flowing side by side with mine, when I can at any moment look over and grasp his thoughts as they come into being, in other words, when we are growing older together. Persons thus in each other's direct experience I speak of as being in the "face-to-face" situation. The face-to-face situation presupposes, then, an actual simultaneity with each other of two separate streams of consciousness.

Schutz 1967:163

The face-to-face situation is fundamental to the "world of directly experienced social reality" (Schutz 1967:163). All other social relationships, including those with contemporaries outside direct experience, predecessors in the past, and descendants in the future, are conceptual constructs (or "ideal types," see Schutz 1967:181-202) abstracted from the essential qualities of the face-to-face encounter and projected as stereotypes upon people at a distance in time and space.

Social Action and Social Relationship

The principal movement of the face-to-face encounter is social action. Schutz's understanding of social action is derives from the theories of Max Weber, and is defined as behavior that is meaningful both to me and to the Other. Social action is thus much more complex than simple behavior. Again, behavior functions to control perception so that anticipated goals are fulfilled within the field of sensorial dots. But the behavior of bringing the coffee cup to my mouth to drink is a simple, practical behavior, and may not be socially meaningful. It is certainly not meaningful to the cup. Social action is special in that it is the product of my attention to an Other. Putting it technically, my social action is a product of my "intentional conscious experiences directed toward the other self" (Schutz 1967:144). My social action is behavior that is intended to influence the consciousness of the Other so that her actions will fulfill the perceptions I desire. And if her attention is directed at me, then I am the Other whose consciousness her action may be intended to influence.

This back and forth exchange of activity unfolds in the course of the face-to-face encounter, and eventually produces a social relationship between two actors (ibid:156-157). It is from the direct experience of the "living social relationship" (also called the "Thou-relationship," or the "We-relationship") that we derive the meaning of all other forms of social relationships, including relationships with contemporaries, as well as those with ancestors and descendants (ibid:157).

In the natural social attitude, this on-going exchange of social action is taken for granted and is not questioned. The social world of face-to-face encounters is "already there." In the natural attitude we take the following for granted with respect to the social world:

...(a) the corporeal existence of other men; (b) that these bodies [of other men] are endowed with consciousness essentially similar to my own; (c) that the things in the outer world included in my environs and that of my fellow-men are the same for us and have fundamentally the same meaning; (d) that I can enter into interrelations and reciprocal actions with my fellow-men; (e) that I can make myself understood to them (which follows from the preceding assumptions); (f) that a stratified social and cultural world is historically pregiven as a frame of reference for me and my fellow-men, indeed in a manner as taken for granted as the "natural world;" (g) that therefore the situation in which I find myself at any moment is only to a small extent purely created by me.

Schutz and Luckmann 1973:5

Time Consciousness Again

Social action is in part a function of the essential processes mediating time consciousness (or "duration of the stream of consciousness;" see Chapter 7, see also Schutz 1967:45-53, Schutz and Luckman 1973:52-58, 1989:14-45). Social actions are not merely meaningful, but are meaningful within the framework of a future goal. Social actions are meaningful within the context of a project (Schutz and Luckmann 1989:21-27). "For an act to occur, someone must act. For someone to act, an act must be projected" say Schutz and Luckmann (ibid:14). And a project is the imposition of knowledge obtained from memories about the past (Husserl's "retentions," see p.000) upon the expectations about the future course of events (Husserl's "protentions"). Actions and meanings are embedded in spatiotemporal "plans" (Miller, Galanter and Pribram 1960) that are constructed within consciousness and are literally "projected out" upon the social world.

The meaning that produces action encompasses both space and time. Meaning forms a "chunk" or package of cognitive associations that binds objects and events in space and duration. Actions are initiated relative to the Other with an as yet unrealized goal in mind. This Schutz called the "in-order-to motive" of the action. The causal, or "because-motive" for the action is known only by rationalizing the action after the fact. Social action as it first unfolds is done in anticipation of its future influence upon the consciousness and action of the Other (Schutz 1967:57-63). And I come to know the intentionality of the Other by interpreting the symbolic expressions of the Other (ibid:113-129). For example, I may give a gift to the Other, and I know the gift is pleasing to her by interpreting her facial expressions, utterances and body posture. I gave the gift in the first place "in-order-to" please her. I would say in retrospect that I gave the gift to her "because" I wished to please her. (2)


Experiences accruing over a lifetime of involvement in "living" social relationships produce an abstraction of patterns of relations that become conceptually organized into objectified ideal types. When we typify another person, be he a contemporary or someone who has lived in the past, or may live in the unrealized future, we are in effect projecting these conceptualized patterns upon those persons and at the same time "anonymizing" them. To the extent that we typify a person, to that extent we remove ourselves from a "living" We-relationship with them.

The process of typification (Berger and Luckmann 1966:30-34) places us at a remove from the living reality of the Other. To the extent that I project a conceptualized understanding of the Other upon her, to that extent I do not know her. And if I approach a person as a "woman," a "cop," a "Canadian," a "black," a "baby," I have to some extent narrowed my field of knowledge about that person, as well as entered the relationship with them as a representative of a stereotype. To some extent at least, I am closed to and out-of-touch with the full nature of the Other and the full potential for relationship. But if I begin to open to the Other as a real being, I transform the typical "They-relationship" back toward the living We-relationship from which all typifications begin. I may even come to lose track of the Other as a representative of an ideal type. I cease to relate to the Other as a "bus driver" and perhaps begin to build a friendship with him.

The society, state, social structure and the like are, on Schutz's account, networks of "interdependent personal ideal types" or roles (1967:199). We originally typify as children from our real living relationships with caregivers. We learn that "mothers," "fathers," "brothers," "aunts," etc. are different because we experience them as different while at the same time being enculturated into the objective meanings of these social categories. Later, this process is extended to include contemporaries we have never met, except by way of imagery transmitted via the media. "Doctors," "teachers," "grocers," etc. are fully objectified categories represented by people we may or may not have ever encountered face-to-face. We certainly have never met our "forefathers" and "foremothers," nor have we met our future, but unborn descendants. Yet these are real, if objectified categories within our highly culturally-loaded system of meaning.

Contemplating Social Action

Just as we are normally unconscious of the essential features of our consciousness in general, it is Schutz's position that we are normally unconscious of the pregiveness, the "already there-ness," of social experience. We take for granted the essential elements of the living social relationship, and are unaware of the derivation of typifications or how they influence our action in the world. If we are to understand such abstract, typified social roles and systems such as governments, states, communities, and the like, we must first "return to the things themselves" in the same Husserlian sense that we earlier applied to physical phenomena, and become fully aware of the face-to-face, living social experience from which we derive social typifications.

To become conscious of the essential ingredients of the face-to-face encounter, and thus of the roots of all sociality, requires the performance of that special reduction we mentioned above. Performing this reduction requires an exceptional self-awareness that is as rare among people as it is difficult to master. As Berger and Luckmann (1966:89-90) note, the taken for grantedness of the social world is perpetually reified in encounter after encounter. "This implies that an apprehension of reification as a modality of consciousness is dependent upon an at least relative dereification of consciousness, which is a comparatively late development in history and in any individual biography" (ibid:90).

This special social reduction is for Schutz a matter of mentally stepping outside the relationship, while still engaged in it -- that is, becoming self-aware in the context of on-going social action:

...I, who have been living within the social world, can also turn my attention to it by stepping outside it and transforming it into an object of observation or thought. That happens then is that I attend in the pluperfect [or past] tense to the intentional Acts [i.e., mental operations] I have already performed while Other-oriented and to what I have grasped in those Acts, namely, the Other's orientation toward me. ...When I do this, I am, in a sense, engaging in self-observation.

Schutz 1967:157

Within this new attitude of social contemplation, I am much like an objective observer of my own and the Other's social intentionalities and actions, but have the advantage over a third party observer in being able to apprehend the essential nature of my own intentionality. This state of self-awareness is no different than that discussed earlier in this book, except that now it is applied in the context of the social world with me as both actor and contemplative. This is what makes contemplation of the social experience more difficult to master than other forms of contemplation. It is difficult because we are conditioned from our earliest days to become emersed in the flow of social action and lose our self-observation. In other words, where the conditioned demands of social relationship are toward attention to the Other, the new demands of social contemplation are upon the essential processes comprising my own social consciousness. (3)


The main point to emphasize in transposing Schutz's phenomenology into a neurophenomenological perspective is that the social Other is constructed within the sensorium. The Other is but one of a vast range of possible sensorial objects upon which the intentional processes of the human brain may be organized. But the Other is a special kind of object; not because we decide to make him/her special, but because he/she is primordially recognized as distinct from all other objects. And this primordial recognition is mediated by special neurognostic structures in the nervous system that become automatically active in perception when stimulated by the corporeal and symbolic form of the Other. That is, the Other is neurognostically present to consciousness as a model of "human being." And that model presents the Other as both a body image and as a dynamic source of symbolic expression and social action.

Facial Recognition and Expression

No other part of the body of the Other is more represented in neurognostically structured brain tissue, or more symbolically expressive in my experience of the Other than the face. Both as adults, and earlier as infants (see below), we naturally look to the face of the Other for indications pertaining to the intentional state of the Other. By attending the face of the Other, we may determine what he is attending, what he is feeling and what he thinks of our actions. Little wonder then that there is considerable information about the biology and neurobiology of the face (see Redican 1975, Chevalier-Skolnikoff 1982, Benowitz et al. 1983, Ekman, Friesen and Ellsworth 1972, Izard 1971, Ley and Bryden 1979, Cicone, Wepner and Gardner 1980, Dekosty et al. 1980). Indeed, scientific interest in the face and facial expressions dates back at least to Charles Darwin (1872). Simple facial recognition is mediated by extensive cortical tissues located on the underside of the temporal and occipital loves of the brain (see Figure o). Patients sustaining damage to these areas may exhibit a striking syndrome known clinically as prosopagnosia , the inability to recognize faces. The patient can still see faces, but cannot cognitively identify them. Damage of this kind seems to leave few other deficits, suggesting that the areas of the cortex effected are quite specialized to process facial forms as meaningful symbols (Geschwind 1979). There is evidence to suggest that the right hemisphere has the advantage over the left in recognition of faces while the left hemisphere has the advantage of recognizing words (Leehey and Cahn 1981, Hilliard 1973, d'Aquili 1982:383).

[Figure 0 Here]

The area of cortex responsible for recognizing emotional expression by faces seems to be different from the area just discussed (see Figure 0; see also Benowitz et al. 1983, Dekosty et al. 1980, Ley and Bryden 1979, Cicone, Wapner and Gardner 1980). The emotional expression area is located on the superior surface of the right temporal lobe, a position comparable to the speech-related Wernicke's area on the left hemisphere.

Of course it is generally known that the right hemisphere specializes in the mediation of emotion, a fact noted over a century ago by Hughlings-Jackson (1879; see also Galin 1974, LeDoux and Hirst 1986:294). It is very likely that right hemisphere networks linking prefrontal intentional, temporal imaginal and limbic emotional tissues account for the affective evocation of the kind of imagery we discussed in Chapter 8.

Masking: or Face-As- SYMBOL

We have elsewhere suggested that this is especially the case with the use of masks and other transformations of facial form and color used in religious drama all over the world (see Young-Laughlin and Laughlin 1988). The lateralized and highly specific neurognostic models organized to recognize both the form and the expressiveness of the face are active at birth (see below) and continue to develop over the course of life. As other authors have noted (see Geschwind 1979, Chevalier-Skolnikoff 1982, Cicone et al. 1980), the amount of tissue dedicated to this function and its remarkable specificity fits well with the importance of the face in the social experience of humans and other social mammals. Moreover, it seems likely that the human nervous system, and perhaps the nervous systems of other social mammals, is genetically predisposed to seek out faces in the environment and to develop and apply knowledge about facial expressions.

It is obvious from our own phenomenology, as well as from the observation of infants and non-human social mammals, that there is a predilection to focus attention on faces as compared to other parts of the body. Thus it is no surprise that a main locus of symbolic-affective association in the experience of ritual drama is the face and its natural and culturally augmented expressions. Just as concentration upon particular images is causally linked to particular experiences in meditation (Chapter 8; see also Laughlin, McManus and d'Aquili 1990: Chapter 11), the donning and use of masks is causally linked to predictable and distinct experiences (Webber, Stephens and Laughlin 1983, Young-Laughlin and Laughlin 1988). These experiences are a blend of conventional ego-identified imagery, affect and somaesthesis with alternative and numinous imagery, affect and somaesthesis produced by the mask and associated imagery and activity. The association of these variant phenomena in a single experience can be explained by the simultaneous operation within the sensorium of previously discrete domains of neurocognitive processing. For instance, a human wearing an animal mask (wolf, tiger, raven, etc.) or a spirit mask (a god, sprite, ghost, etc.) in a drama, brings into simultaneous association the human and non-human face, and because the face is the main locus of social orientation, produces a penetration to previously discrete associations in his own and the observer's perception.

The power of the mask is derived from an augmentation of the power of the face, and the power of the face-as- SYMBOL is due to the fact that it is "already there" as a focus of intentionality within the social experience. Let us now make it clear that the "already there-ness" of the face, as well as the other aspects of the body and expressiveness of the Other, is present from birth.

Pre- and Perinatal Social Experience

The literature in pre- and perinatal psychology now provides ample evidence that the perceptual and cognitive (4) competence of the human fetus and infant is significantly greater than was once thought. This evidence suggests that neurocognitive development in the older fetus, the newborn and the infant produces a primitive cognized environment that mediates a world of experience that is as "already there" as it is for the adult. For instance, objects, relations between objects, faces and speech sounds appear to be already meaningful to the neonate (see Laughlin 1989a, 1989b, 1991).

We began this book by saying that a principal function of the human nervous system is the construction of a system of models of the world. We said that these models develop from rudimentary neurognostic structures that are organized during the course of neurogenesis, mostly (but not entirely) during gestation and early infancy. It is neurognosis that mediates the "already there" world of experience for the human fetus, and that later operates as a preadaptation (what Chisholm and Heath 1987:61-62 call a "facultative adaptation") for the detection and interpretation of patterned energies encountered in the physical and the social world after birth and later in childhood.

When we look at the evidence pertaining to early preadaptation (see Laughlin 1989, 1991 for reviews), it is apparent that perceptual and cognitive knowledge is already present as a product of the inherent organization of the nervous system. The world of the fetus and neonate is "already there" in the sense that the world of perceptual experience (i.e., Husserl's "lifeworld") is a world: (1) of bounded objects that can be recognized and differentiated into familiar and novel, (2) of motion and exploratory movement (however altricial), (3) of affective significance, (4) and probably of interesting and engaging dreams. The world is "already there" precisely because it is constituted within a cognized environment by neural structures initially conforming to a heavy genetic loading, and then rapidly and selectively developing (within neurognostic constraints) in intimate interaction with the world (see Chapter 1).

It is apparent that this preadaptive cognized environment is also one of socially salient objects and relations. That is, the preparedness of the neonatal perceptual/cognitive system for learning is not limited to physical objects and relations in the environment. The infant is inherently and actively social in its activities, and participates fully in socially related learning (Papousek and Papousek 1982). Humanity is a social primate, and the fetus/infant is socially dependent, while at the same time being an autonomous, self-constructing, self-organizing and self-regulating organism. The infant exercises its precocity within the culturally patterned social constraints imposed by parents, siblings and other caregivers (Mead and Newton 1967, Laughlin 1989, Whiting and Edwards 1988).

It is no surprise, therefore, that a major mechanism of social learning for the infant is imitation. This is learning about social interaction by doing, and the structures for inculcating perceived gestures and facial expressions may prove to be present at birth (Meltzoff and Moore 1977, 1983a, 1983b). As Meltzoff and Moore (in Mehler and Fox 1985: 140) note, imitation is ubiquitous to human learning cross-culturally. Research on this capacity of neonates is just beginning and conclusions should be treated as tentative (see e.g., Over 1987). However tentative, the research results thus far (see Meltzoff 1985) do support the notion that the newborn human being is neurocognitively active and aware, and prepared to recognize significant social events in the environment. Moreover, the newborn and infant is able to learn appropriate responses in relation to rewards via something like a "contingency analysis" (Watson 1967). In phenomenological terms, not only is the primacy of perception the rule for neonates in ordering the physical cognized environment (see Merleau-Ponty 1964), it is also the rule in ordering the social cognized environment (see Schutz and Luckmann 1973). That is, not only is the world of physical objects neurognostically "already there" to the neonatal perception at, or before birth, so too is the world of socially significant objects and interactions -- objects that include speech sounds or vocal vibrations, interactive gestures, faces and emotional expressions, and especially the face, gestures, emotional expressions, smell, physical touch, breasts and voice or vocal vibrations of its mother or other primary caregivers (Field 1985, Murray and Trevarthen 1985, Butterworth and Grover 1988).

And these socially relevant objects receive characteristic bivalent emotional responses by the infant (Schneirla 1959, Lipsitt 1979, Bowlby 1969, 1972, Ainsworth 1967, 1979, Ainsworth, Bell and Stayton 1972) possibly indicating an innate proclivity to seek out social interaction, and avoid separation, isolation and potentially dangerous strangers. Various evidence suggests that "seriously deviant patterns of childrearing" (Lamb et al. 1985:272) such as parental abuse and neglect may produce profound and potentially long-term negative effects upon personality organization, affective orientation, and patterns of social adaptation -- and thus the organization of social experience generally (see various references in Murray and Trevarthen 1985: 192; also see Ali and Lowry 1981).

Caution needs to be exercised when considering the attachment aspect of pre- and perinatal social experience, however, because detailed conclusions about exactly what interactions between the infant and its caregivers produce what variations in bonding behavior are not yet possible due in part to methodological problems (see Myers 1987 and Lamb et al. 1985 for methodological critiques of attachment theory). Moreover, it seems evolutionarily reasonable that the drive to bond is ecologically plastic, to some extent at least (Lamb et al. 1985:274, Tronick, Morelli and Winn 1987).

Pre- and Perinatal Communication

The inborn proclivity for social interaction is reflected in the infant's preparation to explore and produce speech sounds. It was until recently thought that older infants passively receive language enculturation and that their early babbling is meaningless and bears no relation to the later development of "real" speech. As a consequence, the significance of babbling as social action has been largely missed. This view has currently been reversed (at least in developmental psycholinguistics) and the best recent evidence indicates that infant vocalization and babbling are forms of social action, constituted by both genetically endowed and culturally labile features, and that they are a consequence of both an active intent on the part of the infant to communicate on the one hand, and the willingness of adults to interpret their vocalizations and behavior as meaningful and to engage in dialogue with them on the other hand (Waterson and Snow 1978, Bullowa 1979, Murray and Trevarthen 1986). Oller et al. (1976) have shown that some of the phonetic content of babbling exhibits similar preferences to that found in later child speech, depending upon the language spoken. De Boysson-Bardies, Sagart and Durand (1984) partially confirm this finding by showing that adult speakers of different languages can accurately distinguish the recorded babbling of infants raised in their particular language group by recognizing certain metaphonological characteristics.

Furthermore, the form and content of adult babytalk -- yet another form of social action -- has been shown to be determined by cultural attitudes and relations operating elsewhere in the culture (Blount 1972, in Snow and Ferguson 1977: 301, Goldman 1987), and to involve simplification and reduction of form (Ferguson in Snow and Ferguson 1977, Papousek, Papousek and Bornstein 1985). The data on many societies show that the mother is not the sole linguistic influence on the infant, influence coming frequently from an extended group of siblings and other kin (Blount in Snow and Ferguson 1977: 299).

Adult Social Experience

What gives a modern social neurophenomenology its edge over the Schutzian variety of social phenomenology is that we now have access to information about the structures of experience independent of either introspection or the interpretation of the social action of others, as important as these two sources of information continue to be. Schutz was limited in his scope to an interpretation of social action as representative of internal "Acts," or cognitive operations, organized about a social Other. We are no longer limited to studying only social action, but can get at the neuropsychological structures of social experience whether they entail action or not.

We know, for instance, that social experience is focused upon the Other, and that the Other is a perception that is both a pattern of dots within the sensorium and a system of models mediating "meaning" associated with that pattern. The pattern of dots may or may not be an abstraction of recognized patterns of energies in the operational environment of the perceiver. In a strict sense, I am not experiencing the operational Other, but rather the cognized Other -- the Other produced by my own brain for its own consumption.

Notice that we may experience a cognized Other with or without the presence or existence of an operational Other. I may experience the Other in a dream or vision and although the experience is both social and complete, there may be no operational Other "out there" in the world at all. Moreover, there will be no social action in the Weberian sense. Yet in every way this is a social experience. The organization of the nervous system is of course quite different during dreaming than in waking consciousness (see McManus, Laughlin and Shearer 1991). For instance, the neural structures controlling behavior have normally been "put to sleep" so that action in the dream is imaginary and fulfilled entirely within the imaginal cortex.

As with all other cognized objects that arise before the mind, when there is an actual operational Other, the cognized Other is always an incomplete model of the operational Other. That is, the real Other is always transcendental relative to my knowledge of that Other. We are always and only symbols to each other. My experience of any Other is an interpretive process -- a process of neurocognitively projecting meaning upon the dynamic sensorial form of the Other. There is thus always a transposition of meaning from the expression of self by the Other, to an association of meaning projected by my models upon that form.

The development of my model(s) of the Other relative to the operational Other requires the operation of a special intentional organization of the EMC. This special organization of the EMC incorporates the neurognostically entrained and tacit knowledge that the Other is a human being like myself, and that she is therefore conscious of me in the same "taken for granted" way that I am conscious of her. She is able to attend my body and consciousness in the same way I am attending her's. My actions are meaningful within this greater plan, a plan that presumes a goal and that subsumes all action within that goal's intentional organization and anticipatory frame.

This view of action follows from what we originally said about the functions of behavior relative to perception (see Chapter 1). Behavior controls perception. You may recall that the role of behavior within my social experience is to fulfill within my sensorium the object of my intentionality -- in this case the Other -- or to express my intentionality -- in this case to the Other. I may turn my eyes or head toward her, walk toward her, drive to her house to "see" her, etc. Moreover, I may attract her attention by speaking to her. All of this is with the presumption that social interaction, interlocution, and social relationship will eventuate.

That the face-to-face social encounter is the primitive root of all social experience follows from my own phenomenology, as well as both from the ethology of non-human animals (see Hinde 1987:24) and from the early development of human social experience. And as we have noted from the beginning of this book, the task of the higher cognitive functions of the mammalian brain is the detection and cognition of abstract patterns and coalescence of these into a cognized environment. In development there is a movement from cognizing proximal, face-top-face encounters with objects, including social Others, to a wider spatiotemporal field that eventually transcends the limits of strictly perceptual space-time. This is the social dimension of the evolutionary advance in consciousness we called the "cognitive extension of prehension" in Chapter 3 (see Figure 0; see also Laughlin and d'Aquili 1974:90-98).

[Figure 4.1 from BS (p. 91) Here]

Patterns abstracted in perception become conceptualized and imagined (or "typified" to use the term preferred by Schutz), and are then projected upon a cognized world well beyond immediate perception. For example, patterns abstracted from my early experiences with my mother become conceptualized and inform my concept of "mother" in general and may be projected upon women far outside my realm of face-to-face experience.

Typification for Schutz, as for Weber, is always derived from culture. Ideal types derive from patterns learned from enculturation, or from abstraction in face-to-face encounters. Another source of typification not recognized by Schutz, but of immense importance to mature contemplation of the social experience, is neurognosis. Neurognostic social knowledge is a product of the inherent organization of the parts of the nervous system that mediate socially salient objects. Neurognosis may come alive in direct experience (in dream, drama, vision, story, etc.) as Jungian archetypes. These are universal meanings associated with images and concepts that emerge due to the operation of neurognostic models, or in the course of the maturation of models, and that may be projected outward upon the Other during face-to-face encounters (see Chapter 8). Archetypal meanings are normally taken for granted. They enter the intentional field as tacit knowledge about the Other. The Other is thus perceived as "the dark feminine," "the white knight," "a beast," "a saint," etc. and action is in part intended in relation to the Other based upon these mythical attributions.

In Schutzian terms, I may relate to the Other from a partially archetypal (i.e., neurognostic) "in-order-to motive," whereas my reflective "because-motive" (or retrospective rationalization) may entirely miss the archetypal component. For instance, I may react fearfully and antagonistically toward the Other out of an unconscious association of her form with the "dark feminine" archetype, yet later remember my part in the encounter as due to her antagonism toward me. Such undifferentiated sources of meaning may play havoc in social relationships, particularly when they involve individuals with severe psychopathologies (e.g., psychopaths, psychotics).

There is as well a transcendental dimension to the process of archetypal projection. I may come to recognize the form of the Other as representative of my own transcendental nature. I recognize in the Other the possibilities of my own future development. This projection is expressed in the western notion of "transference" in certain types of psychotherapy, and by the guru (teacher, spiritual guide) - chela (disciple, student) relationship in the east. It is often said in eastern traditions that it is the chela that makes the guru. This maxim acknowledges the projective element in the relationship between student and teacher. Of course I may merely recognize the Other as "teacher" because I have been told he has achieved that social status. But I am not speaking here about recognition at this superficial level. I am talking about a deeper recognition that the Other is not only the same as me, but is a more advanced, more developed, more mature me. This recognition is inherent in social consciousness. It is a more developed form of the empirical modification cycle that subserves learning via imitation, a process that, as I have noted, is already operating at birth.

Mature Contemplation and the Social Experience

An important benefit of mature contemplation for the development of social phenomenology is that contemplation allows us to relevate and differentiate the various ingredients of social consciousness. In the first place, the mature contemplative knows from direct experience that the empirical ego is a product of self-conceptualization, and in a sense, self-delusion. The contemplative therefore knows that the Other, being uncritically caught-up in the natural attitude of the everyday social lifeworld is very likely under the influence of the same ego fiction. The Other is perhaps not responding out of conscious awareness of his own transcendental ego, nor is he responding to "me" from that recognition. However, in the case of the guru-chela relationship, the Other may well be responding to me out of a recognition of my transcendental possibilities, including my potential awareness of the empirical ego fiction.

Second, the contemplative may know when the Other is "drawing upon" (evoking, or penetrating to) the contemplative's own stock of archetypal and cultural typifications. The contemplative is thus better able to conceptually separate the "pure" Other -- that about the Other that is given in the real now to perception -- from the various stores of knowledge being projected out of memory and plan upon the form of the Other.

And third, the contemplative may be capable of suspending the processes of typification normally operating beyond the reaches of face-to-face encounters. The contemplative knows that the more distant from direct experience is a relationship, the more vulnerable to projection and distortion the relationship becomes. If I have no direct, face-to-face experience of "my aunt," then my aunt as Other is little more than a social category for me, perhaps enlivened by a photographic image, a voice over the long distance line, or memories of family anecdotes. The contemplative knows that such a nexus of associations bears little resemblance to the "living social relationship" that is the ground of intuitive knowledge of self as a social being.


1. There are at least four reasons for using the phenomenology of Alfred Schutz as a grounding for this chapter: First, although he would have nothing to do with the more "transcendental" aspects of Edmund Husserl's phenomenology, Schutz nonetheless ably applied the "mundane" aspects of Husserl's phenomenology to the study of social experience. We can thus build on what has already been said about the methods and findings of Husserl in Chapter 4.

Second, Schutz refined and applied the very useful sociology of Max Weber. Weber developed a theory of social action that has the advantage of being as applicable to other social animals as it is to humans. As biogenetic structuralism has argued from the beginning (Laughlin and d'Aquili 1974; see also Count 1973), the ethology of non-human animals is important for an understanding of the inherent, universal structures of human sociocultural nature.

Third, Schutz understood that a phenomenology of the social world must incorporate experiences had in alternative phases of consciousness (as he says, "multiple" or "other realities," see Schutz 1945, Schutz and Luckmann 1973:25-34, 1989:117-130), a crucial point that our group has repeatedly made in various writings (Laughlin 1989a, 1989b, 1990a, Laughlin, McManus and Shearer 1983, Laughlin, McManus and Webber 1984, Laughlin, McManus and d'Aquili 1990, McManus, Laughlin and d'Aquili 1991, MacDonald, Cove, Laughlin and McManus 1989).

And fourth, although he never addresses the brain/mind issue, Schutz produced a phenomenology of social experience that is commensurate with how we know the brain works. Thus, we will first lay out in brief the elements of Schutz's social phenomenology, and then place his views in a wider biological perspective by examining the social relationships among non-human social animals We will then move to a neurophenomenology of social experience by first discussing the inherent neurognostic aspects of social experience in the very young human being, and then address various issues pertaining to a neurophenomenology of adult human social experience.

2. Of course, my real intentions or "in-order-to" motives for giving the Other the gift may be unconscious to me, and my reconstructed "because-motive" merely a rationalization (see e.g., CHapter 11). But Schutz's phenomenology has a real difficulty dealing with unconscious motivation and meaning (see e.g., Schutz 1967:69, 117). Although he does recognize the possibility of "pseudo because statements" (ibid:90-91), generally speaking meaning is only meaning for Schutz if it is conscious. We reject this view of meaning, but there's no point in getting into a discussion of the issue here, for our position has been made clear elsewhere (Laughlin, McManus and d'Aquili 1990).

3. Schutz implies in many places (1967:167) that contemplation of the face-to-face situation involves observation of memories of my actions (or in the "pluperfect tense" as he puts it). I differ with him in that self-awareness within the flow of the social relationship may also occur in the real now. I am not making a major point of this, because I believe that contemplation of social reality in the now requires realization of the transcendental reduction (and knowledge of the transcendental ego; see Chapter 4), a stage of contemplative maturity rejected by Schutz.

4. We use the term "cognitive" in the broadest sense here to mean any neurophysiological operation involved in knowing. This contrasts with the more narrow sense of computational or propositional modes of knowing as used by some cognitive scientists.