Managers in legal departments will do better to the degree they apply the lessons from these related disciplines. Art Markman, Smart Thinking: three essential keys to solve problems, innovate and get things done (Perigree 2012) brings out differences between psychology and cognitive science. As he describes the two fields, psychologists aim for the scientific study of the mind. Whether the characteristic is cognitive dissonance, working memory compared to long-term memory, risk aversion, status envy, or innumerable others, their focus is external manifestations of the mind. Studies, experiments, and observations look at how humans think from behaviors we can mostly observe.
Across the aisle are the cognitive scientists, who study within the brain. They explore our cranial wiring, parts of the brain that handle various functions, and neurological characteristics of our brain workings. It is the physical world of dendrites, synapses, electro-chemical stimulation, and FMRI’s that undergirds overt psychology, I believe, but both fields of inquiry and management insight stand on their own.
Sociology may be psychology writ large and configured by how groups of people co-exist, yet it is distinctly another level of inquiry and theory. The behavior of crowds, personal space, social support and ostracism, culture – all swarm with much more throughout sociology. Behind all these disciplines looms evolution, the exigent shaper of humanity and how we operate.