Neuroanthropology vs. Cultural Neuroscience

01/01/2012View on timeline


The social, affective, and cultural neurosciences largely overlap with one another as well as with neuroanthropology and transcultural neuroimaging (Domínguez Duque et al. 2009, 2010; Han and Northoff 2008; Lende and Downey 2012a); labels such as “sociocultural neuroscience” are forged to underline interconnections (Wajman et al. 2015). At the same time, these emerging disciplines are engaged in dynamics of differentiation. In particular, neuroanthropologists have emphasized the differences between their approach and that of cultural neuroscience (Domínguez Duque 2012, Lende and Downey 2012a). While, in their view, cultural neuroscience wishes above all to provide brain-level explanations, neuroanthropology aims to combine such explanations with an ethnographic perspective.


To the extent that neuroanthropology draws its main concepts and questions from cultural anthropology, it emphasizes fieldwork as its empirical basis and is as a consequence less inclined to use neuroimaging, which requires an experimental setting. That is why most neuroanthropological studies limit themselves to citing brain research and juxtaposing it to other kinds of materials, drawn directly from the study of cultural settings and situations [...].

In contrast to neuroanthropology, cultural neuroscience uses neuroimaging so systematically that it is often described as “cultural neuroimaging.” This is not to say that neuroanthropology would benefit from turning to neuroimaging but that imaging methods have so far been the chief way of going empirically beyond merely juxtaposing the neurobiological and the cultural. The question is whether they satisfy the stated purpose of illuminating culture.

Vidal, Fernando and Ortega, Francisco. Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject (Forms of Living)....

A question that could be raised at this point is: why is there a need for neuroanthropology when cultural neuroscience is already addressing issues of concern for neuroanthropology? My colleagues and I have dealt with this question in some detail (Domínguez et al. 2009a, 2009b). Here I will highlight the fact that cultural neuroscience operates exclusively in terms of explanation and shares the shortcomings of purely objectivistic disciplines. Neuroanthropology is necessary because, by integrating understanding and explanation (as well as research methods from anthropology and neuroscience; chiefly, but not only, participant observation and brain imaging), it will be in a better position to move back and forth between the neural, the phenomenal and the cultural domains.

Domínguez Duque, Juan F. 2012. “Neuroanthropology and the Dialectical Imperative.” Anthropological T...

Download the PDF files of articles by Domínguez Duque that tackle on the matter of comparisons between neuroanthropology and cultural neuroscience:Domínguez Duque, Juan F. 2012. Neuroanthropology and the Dialectical Imperative. Anthropological The...Domínguez Duque, Juan F. 2010. Neuroanthropology: A Humanistic Science for the Study of the Culture-...

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Published in 21/01/2019

Updated in 19/02/2021

All events in the topic Chap. 2: The Neurodisciplines of Culture:


Invalid DateThe Encultured Brain, by Greg Downey and Daniel H. LendeThe Encultured Brain, by Greg Downey and Daniel H. Lende
Invalid DateSpecial Issues on Cultural Neuroscience
Invalid DateSpecial Issues on NeuroanthropologySpecial Issues on Neuroanthropology
Invalid DateFirst appearance of the term cultural neuroscienceFirst appearance of the term cultural neuroscience
Invalid DateEarly use of the term social neuroscience
Invalid DateSocial Neuroscience, by John T. Cacioppo and Gary BerntsonSocial Neuroscience, by John T. Cacioppo and Gary Berntson
Invalid DateLaunch of the journal Social Neuroscience
Invalid DateFoundation of the Social and Affective Neuroscience SocietyFoundation of the Social and Affective Neuroscience Society
Invalid DateFoundation of the Society for Social NeuroscienceFoundation of the Society for Social Neuroscience
Invalid DateFoundation of the journal Culture & Brain
Invalid DateThinking Through Cultures, by Richard ShwederThinking Through Cultures, by Richard Shweder
Invalid DateThe first Ph.D. in NeuroanthropologyThe first Ph.D. in Neuroanthropology
Invalid DatePrimitive Culture, by Edward Burnett TylorPrimitive Culture, by Edward Burnett Tylor
Invalid DateKeywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, by Raymond WilliamsKeywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, by Raymond Williams
Invalid DateComing of Age in Samoa, by Margaret MeadComing of Age in Samoa, by Margaret Mead
Invalid DateLaunch of the journal Social Cognitive and Affective NeuroscienceLaunch of the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Invalid DateAppearance of the term neuroanthropology in the Dictionary of AnthropologyAppearance of the term neuroanthropology in the Dictionary of Anthropology
Invalid DateNeuroanthropology vs. Cultural Neuroscience
Invalid DateNeural Basis of Cultural Influence on Self-Representation, by Zhu et al.
Invalid DateTopics researched in cultural neuroscienceTopics researched in cultural neuroscience