Social normativity and neuronal normativity :
the discovery of « mirror neurons » and its uses in sociology
What kind of relations sociology should entertain with cognitive neuroscience discoveries and knowledge is a burning issue today. The article studies one possible type of relationship by analyzing a dispute between two sociologists, Omar Lizardo and Stephen Turner, around a major discovery in neurophysiology, mirror neuron systems. It shows how sociologists have used this discovery to arbitrate between rival responses (habit versus habitus) to the question of whether regularity in social behavior is individual or collective in nature. The finding is that neurophysiology discoveries cannot be effectively appealed to to resolve issues of sociological theory, because the determining principles specific to « neuronal normativity » belong to a radically different system of explanation than those for « social normativity ». The difference between the two approaches is then illustrated by means of data from an empirical study on the phenomenon of getting over drug addiction. The article concludes by presenting what a reasonable relationship between sociology and cognitive neuroscience discoveries and knowledge would be.