Regulation, Normativity and Folk Psychology

Abstract

Recently, several scholars have argued in support of the idea that folk psychology involves a primary capacity for regulating our mental states and patterns of behavior in accordance with a bunch of shared social norms and routines (Andrews, Do Apes Read Minds? Toward a new folk psychology, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2012; Andrews, Southern Journal of Philosophy 53:50–67, 2015; McGeer, Folk psychology re-assessed, Springer Press, Dordrecht, 2007; McGeer, Philosophical Explorations 18(2):259–281, 2015; Zawidzki, Philosophical Explorations 11(3):193–210, 2008; Zawidzki, Mindshaping: A new framework for understanding human social cognition, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2013). This regulative view shares with the classical Dennettian intentional stance (Dennett, Brainstorms: Philosophical essays on mind and psychology, Harvester Press, Brighton Sussex, 1981, 1987) its emphasis on the normative character of human socio-cognitive capacities. Given those similarities, it makes sense to assess the regulative view by considering some of the classical arguments against the normative nature of the intentional stance (Goldman 2006; Fodor, Mind 94(373):76–100, 1985; Stich, Philosophical Topics 12(1):39–62, 1981; Stich, The fragmentation of reason: Preface to a pragmatic theory of cognitive evaluation, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1990). The aim of this paper is to argue that the priority that the regulative view lays on the pluralistic and regulative character of folk psychology leaves the theory well-placed to resist these arguments. In this sense, the regulative view possesses better theoretical options to defend the normative character of human social cognition.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. 1.

    Although I place Andrews, McGeer and Zawidzki under the same label, they emphasize different aspects of the approach. While Zawidzki concentrates on the evolutionary and developmental plausibility of the view, McGeer provides a more descriptive approximation of everyday regulative practices, and Andrews emphasizes the plurality of strategies we deploy for predicting and explaining. In spite of this, the different versions are similar enough to be regarded as the same kind of approach.

  2. 2.

    Andrews (2012) dubs this aspect the symmetry thesis. She argues that the symmetry thesis is problematic because it has obvious counterexamples. For instance, our mental state attributions are required to explain actions we are not able to predict. We can explain our friend’s behavior of quitting his job because he was under too much stress even though we were not able to predict he would quit. On the other hand, we can predict that our neighbor is going to be back home at 4.00 p.m. because he always comes back home at that time, but still, we do not know why he does it.

  3. 3.

    Different studies in empirical economics, anthropology and evolutionary biology emphasize a strong human tendency to punish counter-normative behavior (Richerson and Boyd 2005; Fehr and Gätcher 2002; Henrich 2004). Those studies confirm the existence of a human tendency to punish in spite of the cost. This behavior could be considered irrational. However, this is entirely understandable from a framework where the maintenance of social norms is crucial.

  4. 4.

    Arguably, character traits, habits and other folk psychological concepts work in a similar manner. For instance, we say of someone that she is irascible when she overreacts in certain contexts one wouldn’t expect from certain normalized patterns of action.

  5. 5.

    Thanks to an anonymous reviewer at this journal for bringing this to my attention.

  6. 6.

    Certainly, one may claim that the distinction between behavioral appearance and mental reality is neutral on the ontological debate because the distinction reflects what the interpreters take themselves to be attributing instead of what ascriptions really refer to. However, even if the work of Zawidzki can be interpreted in this way, the accusation of fictionalism remains.

  7. 7.

    Expressivism in metaethics distinguishes between descriptive and expressive concepts in order to explain the disanalogy between purely descriptive expression (the phone is on the table) and expressive expressions (eating meat is wrong). According to them, expressions such as ‘eating meat is wrong’ express two ideas: (1) that certain behavior (eating meat) is not permitted for a set of standards N and (2) the speaker accepts N (Gibbard 1990). Similar expressivist ideas can be found in semantics (Lance and O’leary-Hawthrone 1997) meta-epistemology (Chrisman 2012) and philosophy of logics (Brandom 2000).

References

  1. Andrews K (2009) Understanding norms without a theory of mind. Inquiry 52(5):433–448

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Andrews K (2012) Do apes read minds? Toward a new folk psychology. MIT Press, Cambridge

    Book  Google Scholar 

  3. Andrews K (2015) The folk psychological spiral: explanation, regulation, and language. South J Philos 53:50–67

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Birnbaum D, Deeb I, Segall G, Ben-Eliyahu A, Diesendruck G (2010) The development of social essentialism: the case of Israeli children’s inferences about Jews and Arabs. Child Dev 81(3):757–777

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Boghossian PA (1990) The Status of Content. Philos Rev 99(2):157

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Brandom R (2000) Articulating reasons: an introduction to inferentialism. Harvard University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  7. Bruner JS (1990) Acts of meaning. Harvard University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  8. Chrisman M (2012) Epistemic expressivism. Philos Compass 7(2):118–126

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Clement R, Krueger J (2002) Social categorization moderates social projection. J Exp Soc Psychol 38(3):219–231

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. De Brigard F (2015) What was I thinking? Dennett’s content and consciousness and the reality of propositional attitudes. In: Muñoz-Suárez CM, De Brigard, F (eds) Content and consciousness revisited. Springer, New York

    Google Scholar 

  11. Dennett DC (1969) Content and consciousness. Routledge, London

    Google Scholar 

  12. Dennett DC (1981) Brainstorms: philosophical essays on mind and psychology. Harvester Press, Brighton Sussex

    Book  Google Scholar 

  13. Dennett DC (1987) The intentional stance. MIT Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  14. Fehr E, Gächter S (2002) Altruistic punishment in humans. Nature 415(6868):137–140

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Fiebich A, Coltheart M (2015) Various ways to understand other minds: toward a pluralistic approach to the explanation of social understanding. Mind Lang 30(3):235–258

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Fodor JA (1985) Fodor’s guide to mental representation: the intelligent auntie’s vade-mecum. Mind 94(373):76–100

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Gallagher S, Hutto D (2008) Understanding others through primary interaction and narrative practice. In: Zlatev J, Racine T, Sinha C, Itkonen E (Eds) The shared mind. John Benjamins, Amsterdam

  18. Gergely G, Csibra G (2003) Teleological reasoning in infancy: the naïve theory of rational action. Trends Cogn Sci 7(7):287–292

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Gibbard A (1990) Wise choices, apt feelings: a theory of normative judgment. Harvard University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

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

  21. Golombok S, Fivush R (1994) Gender development. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  22. Greenwald A, Smith C, Sriram N, Bar-Anan Y, Nosek B (2009) Implicit race attitudes predicted vote in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Anal Soc Issues Public Policy 9(1):241–253

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Heberlein A, Adolphs R (2004) Impaired spontaneous anthropomorphizing despite intact perception and knowledge. Proc Natl Acad Sci 101:7487–7491

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Henrich J (2004) Cultural group selection, coevolutionary processes and large-scale cooperation. J Econ Behav Organ 53(1):3–35

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Heras-Escribano M, Noble J, Pinedo M (2015) Enactivism, action and normativity: a wittgensteinian analysis. Adapt Behav 23(1):20–33

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Heras-Escribano M, Pinedo M (2016) Are affordances normative? Phenomenol Cogn Sci 15(4):565–589

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Johnson-Laird PN, Wason PC (1970) A theoretical analysis of insight into a reasoning task. Cogn Psychol 1(2):134–148

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Kalish CW (2002) Children’s predictions of consistency in people’s actions. Cognition 84:237–265

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Lance MN, O’Leary-Hawthorne J (1997) The grammar of meaning. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Book  Google Scholar 

  30. Locksley A, Borgida E, Brekke N, Hepburn C (1980) Sex stereotypes and social judgment. J Pers Soc Psychol 39:821–831

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Maibom H (2007) Social systems. Philos Psychol 20(5):557–578

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Mameli M (2001) Mindreading, mindshaping, and evolution. Biol Philos 16:597–628

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. McGeer V (2007) The regulative dimension of folk psychology. In: Hutto D, Ratcliffe M (eds) Folk psychology re-assessed. Springer Press, Dordrecht

    Google Scholar 

  34. McGeer V (2015) Mind-making practices: the social infrastructure of self-knowing agency and responsibility. Philos Explor 18(2):259–281

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Michael J (2015) The intentional stance and cultural learning: a developmental feedback loop. In: Muñoz-Suárez CM, De Brigard F (eds) Content and consciousness revisited. Springer, New York

    Google Scholar 

  36. Nichols S, Stich S (2003) Mindreading: an integrated account of pretense, self-awareness and understanding other minds. Oxford University Press, Oxford

  37. Olivola C, Todorov A (2010) Elected in 100 milliseconds: Appearance-based trait inferences and voting. J Nonverbal Behav 34(2):83–110

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Povinelli D (2001) On the possibilities of detecting intentions prior to understanding them. In: Malle B, Moses L, Baldwin D (eds) Intentions and intentionality: foundations of social. MIT Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  39. Richerson PJ, Boyd R (2005) Not by genes alone. University of Chicago Press, Chicago

  40. Saxe R (2006) Uniquely human social cognition. Curr Opin Neurobiol 16:235–239

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Stern M, Karraker KH (1989) Sex stereotyping of infants: a review of gender labeling studies. Sex Roles 20(9):501–522

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Stich SP (1981) Dennett on intentional systems. Philos Top 12(1):39–62

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Stich SP (1990) The fragmentation of reason: preface to a pragmatic theory of cognitive evaluation. MIT Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  44. Tanney J (2013) Rules, reason and self-knowledge. Harvard University Press, London

  45. Tversky A, Kahneman D (1983) Extensional versus intuitive reasoning: the conjunction fallacy in probability judgment. Psychol Rev 90(4):293–315

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Zawidzki TW (2008) The function of folk psychology: mind reading or mind shaping? Philos Explor 11(3):193–210

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Zawidzki TW (2013) Mindshaping: a new framework for understanding human social cognition. MIT Press, Cambridge

    Book  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Fernando Martínez-Manrique, Manuel de Pinedo and the rest of the members of the Granada Gang for their valuable comments and suggestions.

Funding

The Funding was provided by Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (Grant Nos. FFI2015-65953-P, FFI2016.-80088-P, FPI BES-2012-052157).

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Victor Fernandez Castro.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Fernandez Castro, V. Regulation, Normativity and Folk Psychology. Topoi 39, 57–67 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11245-017-9511-7

Download citation

Keywords

  • Folk psychology
  • Regulation
  • Normativity
  • Intentional stance
  • Rationality
  • Mindshaping