Collective intentionality and socially extended minds

There are many ways to advance our understanding of the human mind by studying different kinds of sociality. Our aim in this introduction is to situate claims about extended cognition within a broader framework of research on human sociality. We briefly discuss the existing landscape, focusing on ways of defending socially extended cognition. We then draw on resources from the recent literature on the socially extended mind, as well as the literature on collective intentionality, to provide a framework for thinking about the social dimension of individual minds. We then turn to a brief overview of the individualistic approaches advanced by Ludwig and Spaulding in this volume. And we close with a discussion of the transformative role of the social mind in individual life presented by Kern and Moll, as well as the distributed approach to interacting systems defended by Goldstone and Theiner.

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The development of children’s social understanding within social interaction

Theories of children’s developing understanding of mind tend to emphasize either individualistic processes of theory formation, maturation, or introspection, or the process of enculturation. However, such theories must be able to account for the accumulating evidence of the role of social interaction in the development of social understanding. We propose an alternative account, according to which the development of children’s social understanding occurs within triadic interaction involving the child’s experience of the world as well as communicative interaction with others about their experience and beliefs (Chapman 1991; 1999). It is through such triadic interaction that children gradually construct knowledge of the world as well as knowledge of other people. We contend that the extent and nature of the social interaction children experience will influence the development of children’s social understanding. Increased opportunity to engage in cooperative social interaction and exposure to talk about mental states should facilitate the development of social understanding. We review evidence suggesting that children’s understanding of mind develops gradually in the context of social interaction. Therefore, we need a theory of development in this area that accords a fundamental role to social interaction, yet does not assume that children simply adopt socially available knowledge but rather that children construct an understanding of mind within social interaction. Key Words: language; Piaget; social interaction; theories of mind; Vygotsky; Wittgenstein.

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Posted in Children, Social interaction, Social understanding | Tagged , ,

Embodied Social Cognition

This book clarifies the role and relevance of the body in social interaction and cognition from an embodied cognitive science perspective. Theories of embodied cognition have during the last decades offered a radical shift in explanations of the human mind, from traditional computationalism to emphasizing the way cognition is shaped by the body and its sensorimotor interaction with the surrounding social and material world. This book presents a theoretical framework for the relational nature of embodied social cognition, which is based on an interdisciplinary approach that ranges historically in time and across different disciplines. It includes work in cognitive science, artificial intelligence, phenomenology, ethology, developmental psychology, neuroscience, social psychology, linguistics, communication, and gesture studies.

The theoretical framework is illustrated by empirical work that provides some detailed observational fieldwork on embodied actions captured in three different episodes of spontaneous social interaction and cognition in situ. Furthermore, the theoretical contributions and implications of the study of embodied social cognition are discussed and summed up. Finally, the issue that it would take for an artificial system to be socially embodied is addressed and discussed, as well as the practical relevance for applications to artificial intelligence (AI) and socially interactive technology.

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How we think and act together

In this paper, I examine the challenges socially extended minds pose for mainstream, individualistic accounts of social cognition. I argue that individualistic accounts of social cognition neglect phenomena important to social cognition that are properly emphasized by socially extended mind accounts. Although I do not think the evidence or arguments warrant replacing individualistic explanations of social cognition with socially extended explanations, I argue that we have good reason to supplement our individualistic accounts so as to include the ways in which situational context affects social interactions. The result, I hope, is a more sophisticated individualism that offers a more comprehensive account of how we think and act together.

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Posted in Social cognition, Social cognitive neuroscience, Social psychology | Tagged , ,

Social cognition, social neuroscience, and evolutionary social psychology: What’s missing?

In this paper, I argue that something important, and something social is missing from contemporary accounts of social cognition, social neuroscience, and evolutionary social psychology. Contemporary accounts of social cognition focus on cognition directed towards social objects, that is, towards persons and social groups. In contrast, early twentieth-century accounts of socially engaged cognition focused upon beliefs and attitudes oriented to the represented beliefs and attitudes of members of social ‘reference groups’ and directed towards both social and non‐social objects. I argue that this earlier conception of socially engaged cognition should be integrated with contemporary research on social cognition, social neuroscience, and evolutionary social psychology since it poses a challenge but also an opportunity for these disciplines.

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Posted in Evolutionary social psychology, Social cognition, Social neuroscience | Tagged , ,

Pattern-recognition, intersubjectivity, and dialogic meaning-making in education

From a conventional monological view, meaning-making is located in a particular statement. In conventional schools, students are positioned to be enactors of ready-made knowledge and skills on teacher’s demand based on their pattern-recognition and production, rather than to be authors of their own education, learning, knowledge, and meaning. Pattern recognition involves the emergence of active production of diverse potential patterns that may or may not approximate well the targeted pattern (“sprouting”). The sprouting can be guided (“supervised”) by an expert or unguided, mediated or unmediated. These diverse potential patterns are sequentially evaluated about how likely each of them can be close to the targeted pattern. In each evaluation, the probabilistic confidence of some patterns grows while some other patterns decrease. In contrast, according to Bakhtin, meaning-making is defined as the relationship between a genuine, interested, information-seeking, question and serious response to it. From the Bakhtinian dialogic perspective, a statement does not have any meaning until it is viewed as a reply to some question in internally persuasive discourse. A student’s meaning-making process starts with a genuine, interested, information-seeking, question raised by the student. At least, when a student cannot yet formulate this genuine question, they have to be pregnant with such a question, experiencing a certain puzzlement, uneasiness, curiosity, tension, and so on. Another aspect of dialogic meaning-making is interaddressivity. A student is interested in other people: 1) in what other people may think and how they feel about it; however these people define this it, and 2) in other people as such – in what they are doing, feeling, relating, and thinking about; in the relationship with these people; in the potential that these people may realize and offer; and so on.

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Natural intelligence and anthropic reasoning

This paper aims to justify the concept of natural intelligence – the type of intelligence wider than human intelligence and its derivative, AI. I will argue that the process of life is (i) a cognitive process and (ii) that organisms, from bacteria to animals, are cognitive agents. To justify these arguments, the neural-type intelligence represented by the form of reasoning known as anthropic reasoning will be compared and contrasted with types of intelligence explicated by four disciplines of biology – relational biology, evolutionary epistemology, biosemiotics and the systems view of life – not biased towards neural intelligence. The comparison will be achieved by asking the following questions: 1. Are human observers the only observers within the pool of terrestrial life forms? 2. If not, (a) what’s the frequency of non-human observers within the pool of terrestrial life forms; and (b) if all life forms are observers, what’s the boundary between the observing and non-observing capacities? 3. Are there true observers within the pool of terrestrial life forms amongst the reference classes of observers that are not human? 4. Do human observers and other observers and true observers share common features? To answer these questions I will rely on a range of established concepts including SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence), Fermi’s paradox, bacterial cognition, versions of the panspermia theory, as well as some newly introduced concepts including biocivilisations, cognitive universes, and the cognitive multiverse. The key point emerging from the answers is that the process of cognition – the essence of natural intelligence – is a biologically universal.

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The Science of Empathy

Empathy plays a critical interpersonal and societal role, enabling the sharing of experiences, needs, and desires between individuals and providing an emotional bridge that promotes pro-social behavior. This capacity requires an exquisite interplay of neural networks and enables us to perceive the emotions of others, resonate with them emotionally and cognitively, to take in the perspective of others, and to distinguish between our own and others’ emotions. Studies show empathy declines during medical training. Without targeted interventions, uncompassionate care and treatment devoid of empathy result in patients who are dissatisfied. They are then much less likely to follow through with treatment recommendations, resulting in poorer health outcomes and damaged trust in health providers. Cognitive empathy must play a role when a lack of emotional empathy exists because of racial, ethnic, religious, or physical differences. Healthcare settings are no exception to conscious and unconscious biases, and there is no place for discrimination or unequal care afforded to patients who differ from the majority culture or the majority culture of healthcare providers. Much work lies ahead to make healthcare equitable for givers and receivers of healthcare from all cultures. Self- and other-empathy leads to replenishment and renewal of vital human capacity. If we are to move in the direction of a more empathic society and a more compassionate world, it is clear that working to enhance our native capacities to empathize is critical to strengthening individual, community, national, and international bonds.

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Social Cognitive Neuroscience of Empathy: Concepts, Circuits, and Genes

This article reviews concepts of, as well as neurocognitive and genetic studies on, empathy. Whereas cognitive empathy can be equated with the affective theory of mind, that is, with mentalizing the emotions of others, affective empathy is about sharing emotions with others. The neural circuits underlying different forms of empathy do overlap but also involve rather specific brain areas for cognitive (ventromedial prefrontal cortex) and affective (anterior insula, midcingulate cortex, and possibly inferior frontal gyrus) empathy. Furthermore, behavioral and imaging genetic studies provide evidence for a genetic basis for empathy, indicating a possible role for oxytocin and dopamine as well as for a genetic risk variant for schizophrenia near the gene ZNF804A.

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Cognitive Empathy and Emotional Empathy in Human Behavior and Evolution

This article presents 7 simple models of the relationship between cognitive empathy (mental perspective taking) and emotional empathy (the vicarious sharing of emotion). I consider behavioral outcomes of the models, arguing that, during human evolution, natural selection may have acted on variation in the relationship between cognitive empathy and emotional empathy resulting in two separable, complementary systems. I predict the existence of 4 empathy disorders using a concept of empathic imbalance. I propose hypotheses about the psychology of autism, antisocial personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and Williams syndrome. This approach generates new predictions and integrates some previous theoretical work by various authors.

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Posted in Cognitive empathy, Emotional empathy, Empathy | Tagged , ,