The New Science of Mind and Body in Cultural Contexts
In biocognitive theory, individuals are seen as an inseparable living field of mind, body and cultural history in constant search for contextual meaning. These biocultural fields define the known as inclusive and the unknown as exclusive. The fields (cultural perception) are contained within horizons that set off alarms when confronted with unknown or contradictory contexts. The operative consciousness that is constructed from our cultural history and our biological foundation, determines how we respond to novelty in a contextual coauthoring that ranges from curiosity to panic.
I argue that current mechanical models of the life sciences study disease by reducing the body to pathological parts. I propose that the healing process must include the cultural history that contextualizes the mind-body expression of health and illness. Instead, we must challenge the cultural beliefs that perpetuate genetic helplessness.
Biocognitive theory integrates research in psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), cultural neuroscience, and cultural anthropology to conceptualize and explore the causes of health, the learning of illness, and the culturally-learned ingredients of longevity as integral living fields that cannot be reduced to their cognitive, biological or cultural components. I also introduce a new model of PNI I call Cultural Psychoneuroimmunology, taking the research from the constraints of the lab to natural settings in cultural contexts that could significantly influence the outcome. While rat research can be productive, the results must be interpreted as responses from animals that do not have the capacity to find meaning in their actions and awareness of their mortality. Cultural anthropology is the missing link of psychoneuroimmunology.