Individualism versus interactionism about social understanding

Abstract

In the debate about the nature of social cognition we see a shift towards theories that explain social understanding through interaction. This paper discusses autopoietic enactivism and the we-mode approach in the light of such developments. We argue that a problem seems to arise for these theories: an interactionist account of social cognition makes the capacity of shared intentionality a presupposition of social understanding, while the capacity of engaging in scenes of shared intentionality in turn presupposes exactly the kind of social understanding that it is intended to explain. The social capacity in question that is presupposed by these accounts is then analyzed in the second section via a discussion and further development of Searle’s ‘sense of us’ and ‘sense of the other’ as a precondition for social cognition and joint action. After a critical discussion of Schmid’s recent proposal to analyze this in terms of plural pre-reflective selfawareness, we develop an alternative account. Starting from the idea that infants distinguish in perception between physical objects and other agents we distinguish between affordances and social affordances and cash out the notion of a social affordance in terms of “interaction-oriented representations”, parallel to the analysis of object affordances in terms of “action-oriented representations”. By characterizing their respective features we demonstrate how this approach can solve the problem formulated in the first part.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Notes

  1. 1.

    An anonymous reviewer doubted that our interpretation of de Jaegher et al.’s interactionism in terms of joint action is adequate. The main reason for this doubt seems to be differences between social interaction and participatory sense-making on the one hand and paradigm cases of collective intentionality on the other (as analyzed by Searle, Bratman, and others). Yet, it is far from clear that these cognitively sophisticated examples rule out more primitive forms of joint cognitive processes (Tollefsen & Dale 2011) and that cognitive processes, in order to count as joint, must amount to collective intentionality in the full-fledged sense. Moreover, it is not clear what else this strong anti-individualism should amount to which is important for the purposes of this paper. De Jaegher et al. always put this forward in conjunction with an emphasis on the joint and active character of social understanding. In another passage, Jaegher, H. de et al. (2016) write, with a focus on social neuroscience: “The hypothesis we discuss here concerns an occurrent instance of social cognition. We claim that a normal adult human brain in isolation is insufficient for a typical instance of social cognition.”

  2. 2.

    De Jaegher and Di Paolo do not make clear in what sense their social enactivism is autopoietic. The feature of autopoiesis seems to be difficult to translate into the social domain since it refers to a process of self-production but neither the agents can be said to produce themselves, nor can we consider the interaction itself to produce itself. While it is clear what the autopoietic elements in biological organisms are, this is not so clear in the case of social phenomena. As far as we know, the only account attempting to translate the notion of autopoiesis literally to social phenomena is Niklas Luhmann’s social autopoiesis (Luhmann 2008). But on this view, a) systems are importantly isolated, and b) Luhmann considers the elements of social systems not to be agents but communications, independent from agents. Therefore, this view cannot be of any use for de Jaegher and Di Paolo’s enactivism.

  3. 3.

    It should be noted that the increased interest in the notion of affordances has produced a number of different interpretations of the notion (e.g. Turvey 1992; Reed 1996; Chemero 2009, Rietveld and Kiverstein 2014). Yet, over and above the minimal definition given in the text we do not intend to commit ourselves to any particular account of affordances. Where our interpretation differs from the mainstream usage in ecological psychology is that we aim at providing a representationalist account of affordances and social affordances in particular.

  4. 4.

    A focus on the social dimension of affordances is not new. Recently, Abramova and Slors (2015) presented their idea on direct social perception in terms of affordances. Their view, however, differs in an important way from ours. They argue that coordination happens as a result when the actions of and/or affordances for one agent shape the field of affordances for another agent. But this is only the case given a shared intention. This means that for Abramova and Slors affordances play a role once two agents are involved in a (social) interaction. The affordance is about seeing the other in their world-context. Although this is obviously important, and might be compatible with our ideas on social affordances, Abramova and Slors are not looking for an understanding of the ‘sense of us’ in any way.

  5. 5.

    Jacob and Jeannerod (2003, 180ff) provide a further yet different representational analysis of affordances. They point to the fact that Gibson did not consider the bifurcation of functions for vision: next to visual perception vision can be for action. They argue that the latter should be associated with affordances while the former should not.

  6. 6.

    Raczaszek-Leonardi, Nomikou, and Rohlfing (2013) propose that early forms of intentionality arise from “initial, perhaps automatic, ‘moving with others’, which is sculpted in multiple social episodes to become ‘acting with others’” (Raczaszek-Leonardi et al. 2013, 211). That is, the structure of activities emerges (is made evident) through repetitive behaviors by the caretakers. From repetition expectations may emerge enabling conventionalized behaviors. The main mechanism for this shaping is the education of action-perception-cycles to enable the child to pick up and create interactive affordances.

  7. 7.

    The authors' project on Situated Cognition is generously funded by the Volkswagen Foundation.

References

  1. Apperly, I., & Butterfill, S. A. (2009). Do humans have Two systems to track beliefs and belief-like states? Psychological Review, 116(4), 953.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Barresi, J., & Moore, C. (1996). Intentional relations and social understanding. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 19, 107–122.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Butterfill, S. A. (2013). Interacting mindreaders. Philosophical Studies, 165(3), 841–863.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Butterfill, S. A., & Apperly, I. A. (2013). How to construct a minimal theory of mind. Mind and Language, 28(5), 606–637.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Carey, S. (2009). The origin of concepts. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Chemero, A. (2003). An outline of a theory of affordances. Ecological Psychology, 15(2), 181–195.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Chemero, A. (2009). Radical embodied cognitive science. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Clark, A. (1997). Being there: Putting brain, body, and world together again. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Costall, A. (1995). Socializing affordances. Theory & Psychology, 5(4), 467–481.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Csibra, G., & Gergely, G. (2009). Natural pedagogy. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13(4), 148–153.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. de Jaegher, H., & Di Paolo, E. (2007). Participatory sense-making. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 6(4), 485–507.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. de Jaegher, H., Di Paolo, E., & Gallagher, S. (2010). Can social interaction constitute social cognition? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 14(10), 441–447.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Eilan, N. (ed.) (2014). The Second Person. Special Issue of Philosophical Explorations 17(3).

  14. Frith, C. D. (2007). Making up the mind: How the brain creates Our mental world. Oxford: Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Frith, C. D., Frith, U. (2012). Mechanisms of social cognition. Annual Review of Psychology, 287–313.

  16. Gallagher, S. (2001). The practice of mind: Theory, simulation or primary interaction? Journal of Consciousness Studies, 8(5–7), 83–108.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Gallagher, S. (2005). How the body shapes the mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Gallotti, M., & Frith, C. (2013). Social cognition in the We-mode. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 17(4), 160–165.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Gibson, J. J. (1979). The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Houghton Mifflin.

  20. Goldman, A. (2006). Simulating minds: The philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience of mindreading. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Goldman, A., & de Vignemont, F. (2009). Is social cognition embodied? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 15(10), 154–159.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Gopnik, A., & Wellman, H. M. (1992). Why the Child’s theory of mind really is a theory. Mind and Language, 7(1–2), 145–71.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Gordon, R. M. (1986). Folk psychology as simulation. Mind and Language, 1(2), 158–71.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Gunther, Y. (ed.) (2003). Essays on nonconceptual content. Cambridge: MIT Press.

  25. Heider, F., & Simmel, M. (1944). An experimental study of apparent behavior. The American Journal of Psychology, 57(2), 243–259.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Hutto, D. D. (2004). The limits of spectatorial folk psychology. Mind and Language, 19(5), 548–73.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Hutto, D. D., & Myin, E. (2013). Radicalizing enactivism. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Jaegher, H. de, DiPaolo, E., Adolphs, R. (2016).What does the interactive brain hypothesis mean for social neuroscience. A dialogue. Phil. Trans. Royal Society B 371, 20150379 (manuscript).

  29. Johnson, M. H. (2005). Subcortical face processing. Nature reviews. Neuroscience, 6(10), 766–774.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Johnson, M. H., Dziurawiec, S., Ellis, H., & Morton, J. (1991). Newborns’ preferential tracking of face-like stimuli and its subsequent decline. Cognition, 40(1–2), 1–19.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Kinzler, K., & Spelke, E. (2007). Core systems in human cognition. Progress in Brain Research, 164, 257–264.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Luhmann, N. (2008). The autopoiesis of social systems. Journal of Sociocybernetics, 6(2), 84–95.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Meltzoff, A. N. (2007). “Like me”: a foundation for social cognition. Developmental Science, 10(1), 126–134.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Millikan, R.G. (1995). Pushmi-pullyu representations. In: Philosophical Perspectives 9: AI, connectionism, and philosophical psychology. 185200.

  35. Millikan, R. G. (2004). Varieties of meaning. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Noë, A. (2004). Action in perception. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Overgaard, S., & Michael, J. (2013). The interactive turn in social cognition research: A critique. Philosophical Psychology. doi:10.1080/09515089.2013.827109.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Raczaszek-Leonardi, J., Nomikou, I., & Rohlfing, K. J. (2013). Young children's dialogical actions: the beginnings of purposeful intersubjectivity. IEEE Transactions on Autonomous Mental Development, 5(3), 210–221.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Ramsey, W. M. (2007). Representation reconsidered. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  40. Reddy, V. (2008). How infants know minds. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Reed, E. S. (1996). Encountering the world. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Rietveld, E., & Kiverstein, J. (2014). A rich landscape of affordances. Ecological Psychology, 26(4), 325–352.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Rochat, P., Querido, J. G., & Striano, T. (1999). Emerging sensitivity to the timing and structure of protoconversation in early infancy. Developmental Psychology, 35(4), 950–957.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Sartre, J.-P. (1956). Being and nothingness. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Schilbach, L., Timmermans, B., Reddy, V., Costall, A., Bente, G., Schlicht, T., & Vogeley, K. (2013). Toward a second-person neuroscience. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 36(4), 393–414.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Schmid, H. B. (2014). Plural self-awareness. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 13(1), 7–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Searle, J. R. (1983). Intentionality: An essay in the philosophy of mind. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Searle, J. R. (2002). Collective intentions and actions. In Consciousness and language (pp. 90–105). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Shoemaker, S. (1968). Self-reference and self-awareness. Journal of Philosophy, 65, 555–567.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Siegel, S. (2010). The contents of visual experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Siegel, S. (2014). Affordances and the content of perception. In B. Brogaard (Ed.), Does perception have content? Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Spelke, E. (2000). Core knowledge. American Psychologist, 55, 1233–1243.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Thompson, E. (2007). Mind in life: Biology, phenomenology, and the sciences of mind. Harvard: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Timmermans, B., Schlicht, T., & Schilbach, L. (2013). Social interaction builds the we-mode. Comment on: Gallotti & frith, social cognition in the We-mode. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 17(4), 160–165.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Tollefsen, D., & Dale, R. (2011). Naturalizing joint action: A process-based approach. Philosophical Psychology, 25(3), 385–407.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Tomasello, M. (1999). The cultural origins of human cognition. Harvard: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Tronick, E., Als, H., Adamson, S., & Brazelton, B. (1978). The infant’s response to entrapment between contradictory messages in face-to-face interaction. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 17, 1–13.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Turvey, M. T. (1992). Affordances and prospective control: An outline of the ontology. Ecological Psychology, 4(3), 173–187.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Wheeler, M. (2005). Reconstructing the cognitive world: The next step. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Zahavi, D. (2014). Self and other: Exploring subjectivity, empathy, and shame. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Judith Martens.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Martens, J., Schlicht, T. Individualism versus interactionism about social understanding. Phenom Cogn Sci 17, 245–266 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11097-017-9499-x

Download citation

Keywords

  • Social cognition
  • Enactivism
  • Interaction
  • Joint action
  • Affordances
  • Sense of us
  • We-mode
  • Sense of the other