A Contribution to the Explanatory Humanities


Welcome to Building Blocks of Human Experience. This website introduces the Building Block Approach, a methodological framework drawn from the new mechanistic approach to explanation that we have tailored for researchers in the humanities.  As a foray into the “Explanatory Humanities,” it offers concepts and tools for those interested in developing socio-cognitive explanations of human experience as it is mediated by complex cultural concepts and social formations.

The website is intended both as a resource for students and as a guide for researchers interested in the interface of human socio-cultural formations, cognition, and experience. On the site you will find definitions of key concepts, descriptions of tools and methods, and an overview of research projects currently working with the building block approach.

The building block approach (BBA) is a framework for studying the complex relationship between human cognition on the one hand, and socio-cultural formations and practices on the other. The aim is to provide a common language that allows scholars in the humanities and social sciences to bring psychological and neuroscientific research to bear on the phenomena they are studying.

It is hard to integrate perspectives from the humanities that focus on our subjective experience with perspectives from the sciences that focus on how our body-minds work. If we want to explain how and why we experience things as we do, we need to take both perspectives into account. This site is designed to help you do that.

The site contains short definitions of key concepts, longer discussions of these concepts, and links to research tools. Newcommers to the building block approach are advised to start with the concepts overview, which gives a sense of how the critical concepts are related to each other. The elaborate discussion of reverse engineering gives a better sense of how to use the approach. Those who want a general sense of the approach can browse the short definitions of each term, while those seeking more in-depth discussions can explore the elaborate descriptions. A Toolbox with examples of hands-on methods is under development. We are also updating a list of individual projects and researchers working with the building block approach.

The Building Blocks of Human Experience website was created by Egil Asprem and Ann Taves, as part of the Religion, Experience, and Mind Lab Group at UC Santa Barbara. Read more about the site here.

How to cite this website

All the entries published on this website are co-authored by Ann Taves and Egil Asprem. To cite an entry, please use the following general format:

  • Asprem, Egil, and Ann Taves. YEAR. “NAME OF ENTRY”. Building Blocks of Human Experience Website. <Entry URL> (Date the entry was accessed).
To leave suggestions or feedback, and to follow discussions about potential revisions, please check out our comments page.

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