Hidden in Plain Sight: The Social Structure of Irrelevance

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9780199366613: Hidden in Plain Sight: The Social Structure of Irrelevance

Many of us take for granted that what we perceive is a completely accurate representation of the world around us. Yet we have all had the experience of suddenly realizing that the keys or glasses that we had been looking for in vain were right in front of us the whole time. The capacity of our sense organs far exceeds our mental capabilities, and as such, looking at something does not guarantee that we will notice it. Our minds constantly prioritize and organize the information we take in, bringing certain things to the foreground, while letting others - that which we deem irrelevant - recede into the background. What ultimately determines what we perceive, and what we do not?

In this fascinating book, noted sociologist Eviatar Zerubavel argues that we perceive things not just as human beings but as social beings. Drawing on fascinating examples from science, the art world, optical illusions, and all walks of life, he shows that what we notice or ignore varies across cultures and throughout history, and illustrates how our environment and our social lives - everything from our lifestyles to our professions to our nationalities - play a role in determining how we actually use our senses to access the world. A subtle yet powerful examination of one of the central features of our conscious life, this book offers a way to think about all that might otherwise remain hidden in plain sight.

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About the Author:


Eviatar Zerubavel is Board of Governors and Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University and author of Ancestors and Relatives: Genealogy, Identity, and Community, and The Elephant in the Room: Silence and Denial in Everyday Life.

Review:


"Eviatar Zerubavel is the reigning master of what might be called nuance in human life. His rich mind and finely tuned sensibility allows him to discern the sound of what most of us cannot hear, the look of what we cannot see, the meaning of what we somehow manage to forget or block out from our line of vision. This is social science of a rare and special order." -Kai Erikson, Yale University


"Hidden in Plain Sight will make you more aware of all the interesting details in the world that most people do not notice." -Temple Grandin, author of The Autistic Brain


"Attention, as the author demonstrates with a panoply of vivid examples, is at the center of social life. This concise and elegant essay richly deserves ours." -Paul DiMaggio, Princeton University


"In this concise and elegant book, Eviatar Zerubavel shows through myriad examples how what draws our attention in the visual field is not merely a matter of perception, but is fundamentally shaped by the social environment in which we live. As Zerubavel recognizes, although we assume that seeing is believing, what we see is often based on what we believe that we will see." -Gary Alan Fine, Northwestern University


"Zerubavel's aim is to offer a perspective he claims is missing in the research on attention-social attention. He synthesizes a great deal of work on attention and connects the work to numerous examples from everyday life. Overall, this is a well-written and thought provoking book likely to entertain and inspire curious lay readers." -CHOICE


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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Many of us have had the experience of suddenly realizing that the keys or glasses which we have been looking for in vain were right in front of us the whole time. Looking for something does not guarantee that you will notice it, as the capacity of our sense organs far exceeds our mental capabilities. Whether we know it or not, we organize our perception systematically and that requires focusing our attention: some things move to the foreground, other elements recede into the background. While neuroscience and psychology can tell us a lot about our cognitive hardware, the cognitive software we use often goes unnoticed. In this book, Eviatar Zerubavel argues that we notice and ignore things not just as human beings, but as social beings. What we attend and do not attend to is a function of the fact that we are lawyers rather than detectives, Koreans rather than Americans, theologians rather than economists, vegans rather than omnivores. It is our environment and our social lives that often determine how we actually use our vision and hearing to access the world. Drawing on fascinating examples from the art world, optical illusions, and all walks of life, Zerubavel investigates how what we notice or ignore varies across cultures and throughout history. A subtle yet powerful examination of one of the central features of our conscious life, this book offers a way to think about all that might otherwise remain hidden in plain sight. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780199366613

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