The main aim of this paper is to introduce an approach for understanding social cognition that we call the normative approach to social cognition. Such an approach, which results from a systematization of previous arguments and ideas from authors such as Ryle, Dewey, or Wittgenstein, is an alternative to the classic model (by which we infer others’ mental states via sub-personal mechanisms) and the direct social perception model (by which we directly perceive others’ mental states). In section 2, we evaluate the virtues and flaws of these two models. In section 3, we introduce the normative approach, according to which human, socio-cognitive competences rely on a myriad of social norms and routines that mediate our social interactions in such a way that we can make sense of each other without taking into consideration their mental states. In sections 4 and 5, we find some common premises shared by the two prior models and offer some arguments against them. In section 6, we advance some possible arguments against our approach and offer some responses against them.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Supporters of both the CM and the DSPM might reply that there is no way to track social norms unless you track first the psychological attitudes or states of individuals. Nevertheless, empirical evidence offered throughout this paper (recall Uttich & Lombrozo 2010, for example) goes against this view. Furthermore, if such claim is raised by supporters of CM and DSPM, then they acquire the responsibility to provide the suitable empirical evidence that supports that claim.
In spite of this, DSPM does not seem to account for the fact that social practices influence not only the interpreter’s individual capacities but also the interpretee’s action (see section 4).
Andrews, K. (2009). Understanding norms without a theory of mind. Inquiry, 52(5), 433–448.
Andrews, K. (2012). Do apes read minds? Toward a new folk psychology. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Ayala-López, S. (2018). A structural explanation of injustice in conversations: it’s about norms. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 99(4), 726–748.
Baron-Cohen, S. (1995). Mindblindness. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Berkeley, G. (1710/1970). A treatise concerning the principles of human knowledge. New York: Dover.
Bohl, V., & van den Bos, W. (2012). Toward an integrative account of social cognition: marrying theory of mind and interactionism to study the interplay of type 1 and type 2 processes. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 6, 274.
Borg, E. (2007). If mirror neurons are the answer, what was the question? Journal of Consciousness Studies, 14, 5–19.
Butterfill, S. A. & Pacherie, E. (Forthcoming). Towards a blueprint for a social animal. In A. Fiebich (ed.). Minimal Cooperation and Shared Agency. Springer.
Carruthers, P. (2006). The architecture of the mind. New York: Oxford University Press.
Carruthers, P. (2017). Mindreading in adults: evaluating two-systems views. Synthese, 192, 1–16.
Currie, G., & Sterelny, K. (2000). How to think of the modularity of mind-reading. The Philosophical Quarterly, 50, 145–160.
Davidson, D. (1991). Three varieties of knowledge. In A. P. Griffiths (Ed.), Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement (pp. 153–166). New York: Cambridge University Press.
De Jaegher, H. (2009). Social understanding through direct perception? Yes, by interacting. Consciousness & Cognition, 18(2), 535–542.
De Jaegher, H., & Di Paolo, E. (2007). Participatory sense-making: an enactive approach to social cognition. Phenomenology & the Cognitive Sciences, 6, 485–507.
Dewey, J. (1896). Te refex arc concept in psychology. Psychological Review, 3(4), 357.
Dewey, J. (1922/2007). Human nature and conduct. An introduction to social psychology. New York: Cosimo Classics.
Evans, M., & Shah, N. (2012). Mental agency and metaethics. In R. Shafer-Landau (Ed.), Oxford studies in metaethics vol. 7 (pp. 80–109). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Fernández Castro, V. (2017a). Regulation, normativity and folk psychology. An International Review of Philosophy. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11245-017-9511-7.
Fernández Castro, V. (2017b). The expressive function of folk psychology. Journal of Philosophy, 18(1), 36–46. https://doi.org/10.4013/fsu.2017.181.05.
Fernández Castro, V. (2019). Justification, conversation and folk psychology. An International Journal of Theory, History and Foundations of Science, 34(1), 75–91. https://doi.org/10.1387/theoria.18022.
Fuchs, T., & De Jaegher, H. (2009). Enactive intersubjectivity: participatory sense-making and mutual incorporation. Phenomenology & the Cognitive Sciences, 8, 465–486.
Gallagher, S. (2001). The practice of mind: theory, simulation or primary interaction? Journal of Consciousness Studies, 8, 83–108.
Gallagher, S. (2008a). Direct perception in the intersubjective context. Consciousness & Cognition, 17, 535–543.
Gallagher, S. (2008b). Inference or interaction: social cognition without precursors. Philosophical Explorations, 11(3), 163–174.
Gallagher, S., & Zahavi, D. (2008). The phenomenological mind. London: Routledge.
Gibbard, A. (2012). Meaning and normativity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Goldman, A. I. (1989). Interpretation psychologized. Mind & Language, 4, 161–185.
Goldman, A. I. (2006). Simulating minds. New York: Oxford University Press.
Goldman, A. I. (2012). Theory of mind. In E. Margolis, R. Samuels, & S. P. Stich (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Cognitive Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Goldman, A., & Sripada, C. S. (2005). Simulationist models of face-based emotion recognition. Cognition, 94, 193–213.
Gopnik, A., & Meltzoff, A. (1997). Words, thoughts, and theories. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Gopnik, A., & Wellman, H. M. (1994). The theory theory. In L. A. Hirschfield & S. A. Gellman (Eds.), Mapping the mind: Domain specificity in culture and cognition (pp. 257–293). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Gordon, R. M. (1996). “Radical” simulationism. In P. Carruthers & P. K. Smith (Eds.), Theories of theories of mind (pp. 11–21). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gray, R. D. (2001). Selfish genes of developmental systems? In R. Singh, K. Krimbas, J. Paul, & J. Beatty (Eds.), Thinking about evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Grice, P. (1974). Method in philosophical psychology (from the banal to the bizarre). Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 68, 23–53.
Gutchess, A. H., Welsh, R. C., Boduroĝlu, A., & Park, D. C. (2006). Cultural differences in neural function associated with object processing. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 6(2), 102–109.
Haslanger, S. (2016). What is a (social) structural explanation? Philosophical Studies, 173(1), 113–130.
Haugeland, J. (2000). Having thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Heras-Escribano, M. (2019). The philosophy of affordances. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.
Heras-Escribano, M., & De Pinedo, M. (2016). Are affordances normative?. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 15(4): 565–589.
Heal, J. (1998). Co-cognition and off-line simulation: two ways of understanding the simulation approach. Mind & Language, 13, 477–498.
Heath, J. (2015). Methodological individualism. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. URL=https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/methodological-individualism/.
Heyes, C. (2016). Born pupils? Natural pedagogy and cultural pedagogy. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 11(2), 280–295.
Husserl, E. (1960/1982). Cartesian meditations. London: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.
Hutto, D. (2004). The limits of spectatorial folk psychology. Mind & Language, 19, 548–573.
Hutto, D., & Ratcliffe, M. (Eds.). (2007). Folk psychology re-assessed. Dordrecht: Kluwer/Springer Press.
Hutto, D. D., & Satne, G. (2015). The natural origins of content. Philosophia, 43(3), 521–536.
Jacob, P. (2011). The direct-perception model of empathy: a critique. Review of Philosophy & Psychology, 2(3), 519–540.
Johnson, K. L., Pollick, F. E., & McKay, L. S. (2010). Social constraints on the visual perception of biological motion. In R. B. Adams, N. Ambady, K. Nakayama, & S. Shimojo (Eds.), The Science of Social Vision. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kitayama, S., Park, J., & Cho, Y. H. (2015). Culture and neuroplasticity. In M. J. Gelfand, C. Y. Chiu, & Y.-Y. Hong (Eds.), Advances in culture and psychology (Vol. 5). New York: Oxford University Press.
Korman, J., & Malle, B. (2016). Grasping for traits or reasons? How people grapple with puzzling social behaviors. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(11), 1451–1465.
Kozlowski, L. T., & Cutting, J. E. (1977). Recognizing the sex of a walker from a dynamic point-light display. Perception & Psychophysics, 21(6), 575–580.
Krueger, J., & Overgaard, S. (2012). Seeing subjectivity: Defending a perceptual account of other minds. In S. Miguens & G. Preyer (Eds.), Consciousness and subjectivity (pp. 239–262). Heusenstamm: Ontos Verlag.
Leudar, I., & Costall, A. (Eds.). (2009). Against theory of mind. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.
Leudar, I., Costall, A., & Francis, D. (2004). Theory of mind: a critical assessment. Theory and Psychology, 14(5):571–578.
Maibom, H. (2007). Social systems. Philosophical Psychology, 20(5), 557–578.
Mameli, M. (2001). Mindreading, mindshaping, and evolution. Biology and Philosophy, 16, 597–628.
McDowell, J. (1996). Mind and world. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
McDowell, J. (2007). Response to Dreyfus. Inquiry, 50(4), 366–370.
McGeer, V. (2007). The regulative dimension of folk psychology. In D. D. Hutto & M. Ratcliffe (Eds.), Folk psychology re-assessed (pp. 137–156). Dordrecht: Springer.
McGeer, V. (2015). Mind-making practices: the social infrastructure of self-knowing agency and responsibility. Philosophical Explorations, 18(2), 259–281.
Meltzoff, A. N., Gopnik, A., & Repacholi, B. (1999). Toddlers’ understanding of intentions, desires, and emotions: Explorations of the dark ages. In P. D. Zelazo, J. W. Astington, & D. R. Olson (Eds.), Developing theories of intention (pp. 17–41). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Merleau-Ponty, M. (1945/2012). Phenomenology of perception. London: Routledge.
Michael, J. (2011). Interactionism and mindreading. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 2, 559–578.
Mill, J. S. (1889). An examination of sir William Hamilton’s philosophy. London: Longsman Greene.
Morris, M. W., & Peng, K. (1994). Culture and cause: American and Chinese attributions for social and physical events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67(6), 949–971.
Nichols, S., & Stich, S. (2003). Mindreading: An integrated account of pretence, self-awareness, and understanding other minds. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Overgaard, S., & Michael, J. (2015). The interactive turn in social cognition research: a critique. Philosophical Psychology, 28(2), 160–183.
Penn, D. C., & Povinelli, D. J. (2008). On the lack of evidence that non-human animals possess anything remotely resembling a ‘theory of mind’. In N. Emery, N. Clayton, & C. Frith (Eds.), Social Intelligence: From Brain to Culture (pp. 415–430). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Perner, J. (1991). Understanding the representational mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Premack, D., & Woodruff, G. (1978). Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 4, 515–526.
Ramberg, B. (2000). Post-ontological philosophy of mind: Rorty versus Davidson. In R. Brandom (Ed.), Rorty and his Critics (pp. 351–369). Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers.
Rietveld, E. (2008). Situated normativity: The normative aspect of embodied cognition in unrefective action. Mind, 117(468), 973–1001.
Rietveld, E., & Kiverstein, J. (2014). A rich landscape of affordances. Ecological Psychology, 26(4), 325–352.
Ryle, G. (1949/2009). The concept of mind. London: Routledge.
Satne, G. (2015). The social roots of normativity. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 14(4), 673–668.
Spaulding, S. (2015). On direct social perception. Consciousness and Cognition, 36, 472–482.
Sterelny, K. (2001). Niche construction, developmental systems and the extended replicator. In S. Oyama, P. E. Griffiths, & R. D. Gray (Eds.), Cycles of Contingency. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Sterelny, K. (2012). The evolved apprentice. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Strawson, P. F. (1959). Individuals. London: Meuthen.
Tanney, J. (2013). Rules, reason and self-knowledge. London: Harvard University Press.
Tanney, J. (2015). Gilbert Ryle, in E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. URL=http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ryle/.
Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (1995). Foreword. In S. Baron-Cohen (Ed.), Mindblindness (pp. xi–xviii). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Troje, N. F. (2013). What is biological motion? Definition, stimuli and paradigms. In M. D. Rutherford & V. A. Kuhlmeier (Eds.), Social perception: Detection and interpretation of animacy, agency, and intention (pp. 13–36). London: MIT Press.
Uttich, K., & Lombrozo, T. (2010). Norms inform mental state ascriptions: a rational explanation for the side-effect effect. Cognition, 116(1), 87–100.
Von Eckardt, B. (1994). Folk psychology. In A companion to the philosophy of mind (pp. 300–307). Cambridge: Blackwell.
Weber, M. (1922/1978). Economy and society: an outline of interpretative sociology. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Wellman, H. M. (1990). The child’s theory of mind. Cambridge, MA: A Bradford book MIT Press.
Wittgenstein, L. (1953). Philosophical investigations. Philosophische Untersuchungen. Oxford: Macmillan.
Wittgenstein, L. (1980). Remarks on the philosophy of psychology. London: Blackwell.
Young, I. M. (2011). Responsibility for justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Zahavi, D. (2001). Empathy and direct social perception: a phenomenological proposal. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 2(3), 541–558.
Zawidzki, T. W. (2008). The function of folk psychology: mind reading or mind shaping? Philosophical Explorations, 11(3), 193–210.
Zawidzki, T. (2013). Mindshaping: A new framework for understanding human social cognition. Cambridge, MA: A Bradford Book MIT Press.
We are thankful to two anonymous reviewers for their fruitful comments and suggestions.
This paper has been funded thanks to a 2018 Leonardo Grant for Researchers and Cultural Creators, BBVA Foundation (The Foundation accepts no responsibility for the opinions, statements, and contents included in the project and/or the results thereof, which are entirely the responsibility of the authors), the Projects FFI2015-65953-P and FFI2016-80088-P funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science, the project “Joint Action for Human-Robot Interaction” (ANR-16-CE33-0017) funded by The French National Research Agency and the FiloLab Group of Excellence funded by the Universidad de Granada, Spain.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Fernández Castro, V., Heras-Escribano, M. Social Cognition: a Normative Approach. Acta Anal 35, 75–100 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12136-019-00388-y
- Social cognition