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108 Agnes Petocz

1998), evolutionary social psychology (Tooby & Cosmides, 2005), and developmental neuro-
psychoanalysis (Schore, 2003a, 2003b). This move is a corrective to what Damasio (2000),
following Cosmides and Tooby (1995), identified as the major oversight of neuroscience and
cognitive science throughout most of the twentieth century; it had ―proceeded as if Darwin
never existed‖ (Damasio, 2000, p. 39). But now, at last, instead of being exclusively
preoccupied with an isolated cortex, some mainstream cognitive neuroscientists are
professing a more holistic concern with the bodily, environmental and evolutionary
contributions to phenomena such as emotion and consciousness. Introducing the new
discipline affective neuroscience, Panksepp (1998) predicted that the twenty-first century
would bring a new psychology ―built jointly on evolutionary, neuroscientific, behavioristic,
affective and cognitive foundations‖ (p. viii).
The combination of these movements has provided a climate favourable for the return of
meaning into mainstream psychology. Even behaviourists are signing up for the job of
tackling meaning (cf. DeGrandpre, 2000). There is an openness to embracing insights from
meaning-related disciplines, including semiotics. Topics such as metaphor, art, music, dance,
non-verbal communication, creativity and interpretation are beginning to find a place as
legitimate subjects for investigation. According to Andreassen (in Donald & Andreassen,
2007), the second-generation cognitive revolution is all about the bodily basis of meaning,
which is ―an important step toward the inclusion of human meaning in an evolutionary
framework‖ (p. 68).
Just over a decade ago, the leading theoretical journal in psychology, Theory &
Psychology, devoted a special issue (Smythe & Jorna, 1998) to the relationship between
semiotics and psychology. The three central themes selected by the editors for particular
attention and discussion were: (1) symbol-processing explanations of human cognition; (2)
the application of semiotics to electronic non-linguistic forms of communication; and (3) the
relevance of postmodernist conceptions of psychology as human science.
This selection of themes is noteworthy. Themes (1) and (3) are clear legacies of the
reasons I discussed above for psychology‘s neglect of semiotics; theme (1) continues the
perception that the dominant role for meaning in psychology is that of internal mental
representations, and theme (3) reflects the recognition that semiotics is typically aligned with
ideologies more favourable to locating psychology in the Geisteswissenschaften, and inimical
to the empirical realist scientific stance of mainstream psychology. Theme (2) identifies
probably the most rapidly expanding area of concern in cognitive science. It is generally felt
that in the management and information sciences there is a growing interest in knowledge
management, knowledge creation, screen design in human-machine interface control, etc., but
that there is an almost complete neglect of theorising from a psychological point of view in
these disciplines. One of the reasons for this is the absence of a common conceptual
framework, readily available from semiotics, to deal with information in terms of signs,
signals, symbols, and so on:

The relevance of a psychology that intensively deals with signs and sign-handling is
becoming more and more visible. Our future environment will not be only physical, but
also virtual, representational and digital. Signs, sign handling and sign understanding are
essential constituents of this new environment. (Jorna & van Heusden, 1998, p. 778)
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