Social Cognition: a Normative Approach

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    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.

  2. 2.

    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).

  3. 3.

    The idea that humans evolved in a context where hunting megafauna was rewarded, and this promoted cooperative hunting strategies is not new. See Sterelny (2012) and Zawidzki (2013).

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Acknowledgments

We are thankful to two anonymous reviewers for their fruitful comments and suggestions.

Funding

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.

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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

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Keywords

  • Social cognition
  • Normativity
  • Individualism
  • Behaviorism
  • Perception