Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 507–518 | Cite as

Action, mindreading and embodied social cognition



One of the central insights of the embodied cognition (EC) movement is that cognition is closely tied to action. In this paper, I formulate an EC-inspired hypothesis concerning social cognition. In this domain, most think that our capacity to understand and interact with one another is best explained by appeal to some form of mindreading. I argue that prominent accounts of mindreading likely contain a significant lacuna. Evidence indicates that what I call an agent’s actional processes and states—her goals, needs, intentions, desires, and so on—likely play important roles in and for mindreading processes. If so, a full understanding of mindreading processes and their role in cognition more broadly will require an understanding of how actional mental processes interact with, influence, or take part in mindreading processes.


Embodied cognition Social cognition Mindreading Social psychology Action 



The author would like to thank Mike Kaschak and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper, as well as members of the Mindreading Reading Group for helpful discussion on relevant issues.


  1. Alicke, M. (2008). Blaming badly. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 8, 179–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alicke, M., & Rose, D. (2010). Culpable control of moral concepts? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33, 330–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barsalou, L. (2009). Simulation, situated conceptualization, and prediction. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London: Biological Sciences, 364, 1281–1289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bekkering, H., & Neggers, S. F. W. (2002). Visual search is modulated by action intentions. Psychological Science, 13, 370–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bub, D. N., Masson, M. E. J., & Cree, G. S. (2008). Evocation of functional and volumetric gestural knowledge by objects and words. Cognition, 106, 27–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Calvo-Merino, B., Glaser, D. E., Grezes, J., Passingham, R. E., & Haggard, P. (2005). Action observation and acquired motor skills: and fMRI study with expert dancers. Cerebral Cortex, 15, 1243–1249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carruthers, P. (2006). The architecture of the mind. Clarendon, Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Carruthers, P. (2009a). How we know our own minds: the relationship between mindreading and metacognition. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 32, 121–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Carruthers, P. (2009b). Mindreading underlies metacognition. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 32, 164–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Carruthers, P. (2010). Introspection: divided and partly eliminated. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 80, 76–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. De Jaegher, H., Di Paolo, E., & Gallagher, S. (2010). Does social interaction constitute social cognition? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 14(10), 441–447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. DeWall, C. N., Maner, J. K., & Rouby, D. A. (2009). Social exclusion and early-stage interpersonal perception: selective attention to signs of acceptance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 729–741.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gallagher, S. (2001). The practice of mind: theory, simulation, or primary interaction. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 8(5–7), 83–108.Google Scholar
  14. Gallagher, S. (2004). Understanding interpersonal problems in autism: interaction theory as an alternative to theory of mind. Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology, 11(3), 199–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gallagher, S. (2008). Inference or interaction: social cognition without precursors. Philosophical Explorations, 11(3), 163–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gallagher, S., & Hutto, D. (2008). Understanding others through primary interaction and narrative practice. In J. Zlatev, T. P. Racine, C. Sinha, & E. Itkonen (Eds.), The shared mind: Perspectives on intersubjectivity (pp. 17–38). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  17. Gibson, J. J. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  18. Glenberg, A. M. (2010). Embodiment as a unifying perspective for psychology. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 1(4), 586–596.Google Scholar
  19. Glenberg, A. M., & Kaschak, M. P. (2002). Grounding language in action. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 9, 558–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Goldman, A. J. (2006). Simulating minds: The philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience of mindreading. Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Goldman, A., & de Vignemont, F. (2009). Is social cognition embodied? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13(4), 154–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hommel, B. (2004). Event files: feature binding in and across perception and action. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 8(11), 494–500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hutto, D. D. (2004). The limits of spectatorial folk psychology. Mind & Language, 19(5), 548–573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hutto, D. D. (2008). Folk psychological narratives: The sociocultural basis of understanding reasons. MIT Press.Google Scholar
  25. Ickes, W., & Simpson, J. A. (1997). Managing empathic accuracy in close relationships. In W. Ickes (Ed.), Empathic accuracy (pp. 218–250). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  26. Ickes, W., & Simpson, J. A. (2001). Motivational aspects of empathic accuracy. In G. J. O. Fletcher & M. Clark (Eds.), The Blackwell handbook of social psychology: Interpersonal processes (pp. 229–249). Blackwell Publishers.Google Scholar
  27. Ickes, W., Simpson, J. A., & Minda Oriña, M. (2005). Empathic accuracy and inaccuracy in close relationships. In B. F. Malle & S. D. Hodges (Eds.), Other minds: How humans bridge the divide between self and others (pp. 310–333). New York: The Guilford.Google Scholar
  28. Kaschak, M. P., & Maner, J. K. (2009). Embodiment, evolution, and social cognition: an integrative framework. European Journal of Social Psychology, 39, 1236–1244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Loula, F., Prasad, S., Harber, K., & Shiffrar, M. (2005). Recognizing people from their movement. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 31(1), 210–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Malle, B. F. (2004). How the mind explain behavior: Folk explanations, meaning, and social interaction. MIT Press.Google Scholar
  31. Maner, J. K., Kenrick, D. T., Neuberg, S. L., Vaughn Becker, D., Robertson, T. E., Hofer, B., et al. (2005). Functional projection: how fundamental social motives can bias interpersonal perception. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 63–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Maner, J. K., Galliot, M. T., Rouby, D. A., & Miller, S. L. (2007a). Can’t take my eyes off you: attentional adhesion to mates and rivals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93, 389–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Maner, J. K., DeWall, C. N., Baumeister, R. F., & Schaller, M. (2007b). Does social exclusion motivate interpersonal reconnection? Resolving the “porcupine problem”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 42–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. McGann, M., & De Jaegher, H. (2009). Self-other contingencies: enacting social perception. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 8(4), 417–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Nanay, B. (2010). Action-oriented perception. European Journal of Philosophy. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0378.2010.00407.x.
  36. O’Regan, J. K., & Noe, A. (2001). A sensorimotor account of vision and visual consciousness. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24(5), 883–917.Google Scholar
  37. Ratcliffe, M. (2007). From folk psychology to commonsense. In D. D. Hutto & M. Ratcliffe (Eds.), Folk psychology reassessed (pp. 223–243). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Richardson, M. J., Marsh, K. L., Isenhower, R. W., Goodman, J. R. L., & Schmidt, R. C. (2007). Rocking together: dynamics of intentional and unintentional interpersonal coordination. Human Movement Science, 26, 867–891.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Rizzolatti, G., & Sinigaglia, C. (2010). The functional role of the parieto-frontal mirror circuit: interpretations and misinterpretations. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 11, 264–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rueschemeyer, S.-A., Lindemann, O., Van Elk, M., & Bekkering, H. (2009). Embodied cognition: the interplay between automatic resonance and selection-for-action mechanisms. European Journal of Social Psychology, 39, 1180–1187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Safran Foer, J. (2005). Extremely loud and incredibly close. Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  42. Scarantino, A. (2003). Affordances explained. Philosophy of Science, 70(5), 949–961.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Schilbach, L. (2010). A second-person approach to other minds. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 11, 449–449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schubert, T. W., & Semin, G. R. (2009). Embodiment as a unifying perspective for psychology. European Journal of Social Psychology, 39(7), 1135–1141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Shanton, K., & Goldman, A. (2010). Simulation theory. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 1(4), 527–538.Google Scholar
  46. Shockley, K., Richardson, D. C., & Dale, R. (2009). Conversation and coordinative structures. Topics in Cognitive Science, 1, 305–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Simpson, J. A., Minda Oriña, M., & Ickes, W. (2003). When accuracy hurts, and when it helps: a test of the accuracy model in marital interactions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(5), 881–893.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Smith, L. B. (2005). Action alters shape categories. Cognitive Science, 29, 665–679.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Spaulding, S. (2010). Embodied cognition and mindreading. Mind & Language, 25, 119–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wilson, M. (2002). Six views of embodied cognition. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 9(4), 625–636.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Zawidzki, T. (2008). The function of folk psychology: mind reading or mindshaping? Philosophical Explorations, 11(3), 193–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Zwaan, R. A., & Taylor, L. J. (2006). Seeing, acting, understanding: motor resonance in language comprehension. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 135, 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Florida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

Personalised recommendations