Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 519–540

Embodying the False-Belief Tasks



Embodied approaches to mindreading have tended to define themselves in contrast to cognitive approaches to social mindreading. One side effect of this has been a lack of engagement with key areas in the study of social cognition—in particular the topic of how we gain an understanding of the referential nature of others’ thoughts, and how that understanding develops from infancy. I argue that embodied accounts of mindreading are well equipped to enter into this debate, by making use of the notion of a joint mental state, but that doing so will require taking a less antagonistic attitude towards mainstream cognitive approach.


The false-belief task Developmental psychology Social cognition Joint attention Embodied cognition Intersubjectivity Theory of mind 


  1. Apperly, I., & Butterfill, S. (2009). Do humans have two systems to track beliefs and belief-like states? Psychological Review, 116, 4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baird, J., & Baldwin, D. (2001). Making sense of human behaviour: Action parsing and intentional inference. In B. F. Malle, L. Moses, & D. A. Baldwin (Eds.), Intentions and intentionality: Foundations of social cognition. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  3. Baldwin, D. (1995). Understanding the link between joint attention and language. In C. Moore & P. J. Dunham (Eds.), Joint attention: Its origins and development. Hillsdale: LEA.Google Scholar
  4. Baron-Cohen, S., Leslie, A., & Frith, U. (1985). Does the autistic child have a theory of mind? Cognition, 21, 37–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bloom, P., & German, T. (2000). Two reasons to abandon the false belief task as a test of the theory of mind. Cognition, 77, B25–B31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brooks, R., & Meltzoff, A. (2002). The importance of eyes: How infants interpret adult’s looking behaviour. Developmental Psychology, 3(8), 958–966.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Burge, T. (2010). Origins of objectivity. Oxford: OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Butterfill, S. & Apperly, I. (2011). How to construct a minimal theory of mind.Google Scholar
  9. Campbell, J. (2002). Reference and consciousness. Oxford: OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Caron, A. J. (2009). Comprehension of the representational mind in infancy. Developmental Review, 29, 69–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Caron, A. J., Kiel, E., Dayton, M., & Butler, S. (2002). Comprehension of the referential intent of looking and pointing between 12 and 15 months of age. Journal of Cognition and Development, 3, 445–464.Google Scholar
  12. Carpendale, J., & Lewis, C. (2006). How children develop social understanding. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  13. Carruthers, P. (2006). The architecture of the mind. Oxford: OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Corkum, V., & Moore, C. (1995). Development of joint visual attention in infants. In C. Moore & P. J. Dunham (Eds.), Joint attention: Its origins and development. Hillsdale: LEA.Google Scholar
  15. De Jaegher, H. (2009). Social understanding through perception? Yes, by interacting. Consciousness and Cognition, 18, 535–542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. De Jaegher, H., Di Paolo, E., & Gallagher, S. (2010). Can social interaction constitute social cognition? Trends in Cognitive Science., 14(10), 441–447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Di Paolo, E. A., Rohde, M., & De Jaegher, H. (2007). Horizons for the enactive mind: Values, social interaction, and play. In J. Stewart, O. Gapenne, & E. Di Paolo (Eds.), Enaction: Towards a new paradigm for cognitive science. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  18. Doherty, M. J. (2009). Theory of mind: How children understand others’ thoughts and feelings. Hove: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  19. Eilan, N. (2005). Joint attention, communication and the mind. In N. Eilan, C. Hoerl, T. McCormack, & J. Roessler (Eds.), Joint attention: Communication and other minds. Oxford: OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Eilan, N. (2007). Consciousness, self-consciousness and communication. In T. Baldwin (Ed.), Reading Mearleau-Ponty on the phenomenology of perception. Oxford: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. Fodor, J. (1992). A theory of the child’s theory of mind. Cognition, 44(3), 283–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Forguson, L., & Gopnik, A. (1988). The ontology of common sense. In J. Astington, P. Harris, & D. Olsen (Eds.), Developing theories of mind. Cambridge: CUP.Google Scholar
  23. Gallagher, S. (2001). The practice of mind: Theory, simulation or interaction? Journal of Consciousness Studies, 8(5–7), 83–107.Google Scholar
  24. Gallagher, S. (2005). How the body shapes the mind. Oxford: OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gallagher, S. (2008). Inference or interaction: Social cognition without precursors. Philosophical Explorations, 11(3), 163–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gergeley, G. (2010). Kinds of agents: The origins of understanding instrumental and communicative agency. In U. Goshwami (Ed.), Blackwell handbook of childhood cognitive development (2nd ed.). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  27. Goldman, A. (2006). Simulating minds: The philosophy, psychology and neuroscience of mindreading. Oxford: OUP.Google Scholar
  28. Gopnik, A., & Meltzoff, A. (1997). Words, thoughts and theories. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  29. Hobson, P. (2003). The cradle of thought: explorations in the origin of thinking. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  30. Hutto, D. D. (2008). Folk psychological narratives: the Sociocultural basis of understanding reasons. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  31. Hutto, D.D. (2011). Elementary mind-reading, enactivist-style. In A. Seeman, Joint Attention: New Developments in Philosophy, Psychology and Neuroscience. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  32. Johnson, S. (2005). Reasoning about intentionality in pre-verbal infants. In P. Carruthers, S. Laurence, & S. Stich (Eds.), The innate mind (Vol 1): Structure and contents. Oxford: OUP.Google Scholar
  33. Király, I. (2009). Memories for events in infants: Goal-relevant action coding. In T. Striano & V. Reid (Eds.), Social cognition: Development, neuroscience and autism. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  34. Leslie, A. M., & Roth, D. (1993). What autism teaches us about representation. In S. Baron-Cohen, H. Tager-Flusberg, & D. J. Cohen (Eds.), Understanding other minds: Perspectives from autism. Oxford: OUP.Google Scholar
  35. Liebal, K., Behne, T., Carpenter, M., & Tomasello, M. (2009). Infants use shared experience to interpret pointing gestures. Developmental Science, 12, 264–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Moll, H., & Tomasello, M. (2004). Twelve- and 18-month-old infants follow gaze to spaces behind barriers. Developmental Science, 7(1), F1–F9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Moll, H., & Tomasello, M. (2007). How 14- and 18-month-olds know what others have experienced. Developmental Psychology, 43(2), 309–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Moll, H., Richter, N., Carpenter, M., & Tomasello, M. (2008). Fourteen-month-olds know what ‘we’ have shared in a special way. Infancy, 13(1), 90–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Nicholls, S., & Stich, S. (2003). Mindreading: An integrated account of pretense, self-awareness, and understanding other minds. Oxford: OUP.Google Scholar
  40. Onishi, K., & Baillargeon, R. (2005). Do 15-month-olds understand false beliefs? Science, 308, 255–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Perner, J. (1991). Understanding the representational theory of mind. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  42. Prinz, J. J. (2009). Is consciousness embodied? In P. Robbins & M. Aydede (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of situated cognition. Cambridge: CUP.Google Scholar
  43. Ratcliffe, M. (2007). Rethinking common-sense psychology. Basingstoke: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  44. Reddy, V. (2008). How infants know minds. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Sabbagh, M., & Baldwin, D. (2005). Understanding the role of communicative intentions. In N. Eilan, C. Hoerl, T. McCormack, & J. Roessler (Eds.), Joint attention: Communication and other minds. Oxford: OUP.Google Scholar
  46. Scaife, M., & Bruner, J. (1975). The capacity for joint visual attention in the infant. Nature, 253, 265–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Scott, R., & Baillargeon, R. (2009). Which penguin is this? Attributing false-belief about identity statements at 18 months. Child Development, 80(4), 1172–1196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Searle, J. (1983). Intention: An essay in the philosophy of mind. Cambridge: CUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Seeman, A. (2008). Person perception. Philosophical Explorations, 11(3), 245–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Seeman, A. (2010). The other person in joint attention: A relational approach. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 17(5–6), 161–182.Google Scholar
  51. Shapiro, L. (2011). Embodied cognition. Oxford: Routledge.Google Scholar
  52. Song, H., & Baillargeon, R. (2008). Infants’ reasoning about others’ false perceptions. Developmental Psychology, 44, 1789–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Southgate, V., Senju, A., & Csibra, G. (2007). Action anticipation through attribution of false belief by two-year-olds. Psychological Science, 18, 587–592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Striano, T., & Reid, V. (2009). Social cognition at the crossroads: Perspectives on understanding others. In T. Striano & V. Reid (Eds.), Social cognition: Development, neuroscience, and autism. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  55. Tomasello, M. (2008). Origins of Human Communication. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  56. Tomasello, M. (2009). Why we cooperate. Cambrdige: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  57. Tomasello, M., Carpenter, M., Call, J., Behne, T., & Moll, H. (2005). Understanding and sharing intentions: The origins of cultural cognition. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 28, 675–691.Google Scholar
  58. Trevarthen, C. (1979). Communication and cooperation in early infancy: A description of primary intersubjectivity. In M. Bullowa (Ed.), Before speech: the beginning of interpersonal communication. New York: CUP.Google Scholar
  59. Trevarthen, C. (1995). The child’s need to learn a culture. Children & Society., 9(1), 5–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wellman, H. M., Cross, D., & Watson, J. (2001). Meta-analysis of theory of mind development: The truth about false belief. Child Development, 72, 655–684.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wilby, M. (2010). The simplicity of mutual knowledge. Philosophical Explorations, 13(2), 83–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Wimmer, H., & Perner, J. (1983). Beliefs about beliefs: representation and constraining function of wrong beliefs in young children’s understanding of deception. Cognition, 13, 103–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Zahavi, D. (2004). The embodied self-awareness of the infant: A challenge to the theory-theory of mind? In D. Zahavi, T. Grünbaum, & J. Parnas (Eds.), The structure and development of self-consciousness: Interdisciplinary perspectives (pp. 35–63). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  64. Zawidzki, T. (2011). Mindshaping: Linchpin of the human socio-cognitive syndrome. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Anglia Ruskin UniversityCambridgeUK

Personalised recommendations