The idea of sociomateriality mainly originates from the vast area of perspectives on psychological development related to empiricism. In simple terms, it could be said that sociomateriality stresses the contribution of individual and collective experience by putting more emphasis on the role that corporeity, physical contexts, and objects play in the development or emergence of psychological functions. Unfortunately, like any simplification, this one has objective limits. What makes it difficult to establish a unified framework to define sociomateriality, and above all to determine its relationship to psychological development, is first of all an epistemological question that is still the subject of a wide debate in several scientific areas, including philosophy (Searle, 2007) archaeology and material cultures (Malafouris, 2013), ergonomics (Geslin, 2017), anthropology and sociology (Latour, 2005), cognitive sciences (Clark, 2008), psychotherapy (Searles, 1960), developmental psychology (Moro and Rodríguez, 1998; Moro, 2016; Iannaccone et al., 2018) and learning itself (Engeström, 2015; Iannaccone, 2017; Cattaruzza et al., 2019). Within the limited extent of this introduction to the variegated Topic hosted by Frontiers in Psychology, we can identify the heart of the epistemological problem in two fundamental questions: (a) what are the boundaries of the mind with respect to corporeity and the context in which it operates? and (b) what could be the real contribution that artifacts give to the development of psychological functions, particularly learning? Of course, these two problems not only have an abstract philosophical meaning, but also constitute a real methodological puzzle, because they question the notions of “object of analysis” and “unity of analysis.” To these important problems, researchers have given varied answers that are arranged along an axis with what we could define as “strong sociomateriality” on the one end and “weak sociomateriality” on the other. Concerning the explanations of psychological phenomena, this continuum depends substantially on the more or less decisive role that researchers assign to both the physical characteristics (materialities) of objects or contexts and to the communicative and semiotic interactions between humans and non-humans (social and cultural mediations). Even within this Topic, which is specifically dedicated to the role of objects in psychological development (affective, cognitive, and social), the contributions collected do not refer to a single notion of sociomateriality. On the positive side, these contributions present a rich landscape of theoretical and empirical positions requiring the reader to seriously reconsider sociomateriality in psychology. In summarizing the 14 contributions, we identified some common general aspects of the Topic that can help the reader organize his or her “journey”: Mental activities are not considered as decontextualized and isolated, but are interwoven in the interactions among individuals on one hand and the physical and social worlds on the other; and objects seem to actively contribute to typical and atypical psychological development (cognitive, affective, and social), influencing to several degrees the way that people experience the world. The contributions to the Topic are briefly presented below, organized according to their contribution to the issue of sociomateriality in psychology.
- human and non-human interactions
- psychological development