Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 205–235 | Cite as

The extended body: a case study in the neurophenomenology of social interaction



There is a growing realization in cognitive science that a theory of embodied intersubjectivity is needed to better account for social cognition. We highlight some challenges that must be addressed by attempts to interpret ‘simulation theory’ in terms of embodiment, and argue for an alternative approach that integrates phenomenology and dynamical systems theory in a mutually informing manner. Instead of ‘simulation’ we put forward the concept of the ‘extended body’, an enactive and phenomenological notion that emphasizes the socially mediated nature of embodiment. To illustrate the explanatory potential of this approach, we replicate an agent-based model of embodied social interaction. An analysis of the model demonstrates that the extended body can be explained in terms of mutual dynamical entanglement: inter-bodily resonance between individuals can give rise to self-sustaining interaction patterns that go beyond the behavioral capacities of isolated individuals by modulating their intra-bodily conditions of behavior generation.


Enaction Embodied intersubjectivity Dynamical systems theory Social cognition 



The collaboration between Froese and Fuchs was initially enabled by the COST Action on Consciousness (BM0605), which funded a Short-Term Scientific Mission for Froese to work with Fuchs at the University of Heidelberg. During the later completion of this paper Froese was financially supported by a Grant-in-Aid awarded by the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). We thank Rasmus Thybo Jensen and the anonymous reviewers for their detailed comments, and Takashi Ikegami for many helpful discussions. The software implementation of the agent-based model made use of Randall D. Beer’s “Evolutionary Agents v1.1.2” C++ package. The mathematical analysis of the agent’s dynamical system was performed with the help of Randall D. Beer’s “Dynamica v1.0.4” Mathematica package.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ikegami LaboratoryThe University of TokyoTokyoJapan
  2. 2.Klinik für Allgemeine Psychiatrie, Zentrum für Psychosoziale Medizin, Universitätsklinikum HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany

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