Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 375–400 | Cite as

Social cognition, mindreading and narratives. A cognitive semiotics perspective on narrative practices from early mindreading to Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Claudio PaolucciEmail author


Understanding social cognition referring to narratives without relying on mindreading skills has been the main aim of the Narrative Practice Hypothesis (NPH) proposed by Daniel Hutto and Shaun Gallagher. In this paper, I offer a semiotic reformulation of the NPH, expanding the notion of narrative beyond its conventional common-sense understanding and claiming that the kind of social cognition that operates in implicit false belief task competency is developed out of the narrative logic of interaction. I will try to show how experience is shaped through meaning by the structure of narrativity and the way this can account for how narrative competencies do not just depend on language acquisition, but permeate the interactive competencies of pre-linguistic children and some social non-human animals. Developing during primary and secondary intersubjectivity and rooted in the semiotic ability to deceive and manipulate others, semiotic narrativity is the key bridge that leads us to mind and beliefs starting from basic perceptions, emotions and embodied enactive interactions. I will test my Narrative Practice Semiotic Hypothesis (NPSH) on Autism spectrum disorders, where social cognition skills don’t work properly, connecting NPSH to the Social Motivation Theory of Autism (Dawson et al. 2005; Chevalier et al. 2012). I will finally answer some criticisms towards the original NPH, connecting its semiotic reformulation to early mindreading in infants and to some very recent experiments by Krupeneye et al. (2016) and Buttelmann et al. (2017) about false beliefs understanding in primates.


Narratives Social cognition Early mindreading Semiotics Shaun Gallagher Daniel Hutto False beliefs Animal cognition Enactivism Interaction theory 



My thanks to Shaun Gallagher and to my two anonymous reviewers for the help in making this paper a lot better than it originally was.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and Communication StudiesUniversità degli Studi di BolognaBolognaItaly

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