Workshop: "Social Cognition"

Workshop on Social Cognition
Center for Subjectivity Research
University of Copenhagen
6th and 7th October 2011
Lecture room 25-5-11
Participation by invitation only


6th October

9.00- 9.30: Dan Zahavi - Introduction

9.30-11.00: Philippe Rochat (Emory University)

"Reputation and Value Negotiation: two neglected corner pieces of human social cognition"

The basic need to affiliate is the primary drive of social cognition. This is true for both human and nonhuman animals. What might be specific to our species, however, is an exacerbated care for reputation and the need to agree on values. Here, I want to argue that reputation and value negotiation are two corner pieces of human social cognition that tend to be overlooked by psychologists, particularly developmental psychologists like me. In developmental psychology, dominant paradigms tend to place children as third party observers and rational decipherers of social events when in fact children tend primarily to learn first hand from direct, constant "interactive" confrontations (value negotiation) and in situations where theirs and others' reputation is at stake (e.g., who is nice, who owns what, who did what, or who hurt whom). Based on my research, I will try to show that capturing these phenomena, viewed as foundational of social cognition, requires experimental paradigms that go above and beyond those used to capture developing Theories of Mind. Such paradigms must, in general, put more emphasis on the context of on-going social exchanges and transactions.

11.00-11.30: Coffee

11.30-13.00: Vasu Reddy (University of Portsmouth)

"If engagement matters: (Re-)Opening development"

A second person approach to understanding minds puts engagement at the centre of the story. It necessarily steers away from the sole emphasis on observation and conceptualisation favoured by third person approaches such as the ‘theory theory', as well as from the sole emphasis on action favoured by first person approaches such as modern simulation theories. By avoiding different dualisms inherent in the other approaches, the emphasis on engagement explains - rather than ‘explains away' - several phenomena in early development, painting a developmental picture of continuity and openness to experience. Put in this stylised way, the three explanatory perspectives afford different predictions which can be tested against one another: the three (potentially alternative) emphases are on Observing, Doing and Responding. The claims of a second person approach imply that observation alone is insufficient for making sense of things and that the ability to perform an action is not always necessary for meaningful awareness of it; rather, the mutuality in receiving and responding to actions itself involves and confers meaning. It may thus be possible to develop predictions about developing understanding by comparing these alternative emphases.

The emphasis on engagement places the developmental onus on openness - of each to the world and to others - and therefore on the mutuality of response. To follow such an emphasis requires us to genuinely open up the developmental story, allowing uncertainty and flexibility both within development and within explanations of development.

13.00-14.00: Lunch

14.00-15.30: Leonhard Schilbach (Max-Planck-Institute for Neurological Research, & Department of Psychiatry, University of Cologne)

"Toward a second-person neuroscience: Evidence from functional neuroimaging"

In spite of the remarkable progress made in the burgeoning field of social neuroscience, the neural mechanisms that underlie social interaction are only beginning to be studied and could -paradoxically- be seen as representing the ‘dark matter' of social neuroscience. Recent conceptual and empirical developments, indeed, indicate the need for investigations, which allow the study of real-time social encounters. This suggestion is based on the premise that social cognition is fundamentally different when we are engaged with others, in interaction with rather than merely observing them. In this talk, the theoretical conception of this second-person approach to other minds is outlined and followed by a review of evidence from neuroimaging, psychophysiological studies and related fields to argue for the development of a second-person neuroscience, which will help neuroscience to really go social. Importantly, such a development may also be relevant for our understanding of psychiatric disorders construed as disorders of social cognition.

7th October

10.00-11.00: Joel Krueger

"Interaction and implicit bodily communication in social cognition: Moebius Syndrome as a case study"

Within the past decade or so, the Theory of Mind paradigm in social cognition research has been challenged from a number of fronts. A prominent group of challengers endorse what we might term "interactionism". Some internal differences among its adherents notwithstanding, interactionism appears to minimally endorse the following two claims: (1) Theory Theory and Simulation Theory-as well as the Theory of Mind paradigm more generally-rest on a flawed conception of social cognition; (2) this flaw is a failure to recognize the primacy of social interaction in facilitating interpersonal understanding. By focusing on individual mechanism like lay theories ("folk psychology") and simulations, TT and ST overlook the extent to which social cognition is essentially mediated by the encompassing temporal, perceptual, and interactive dynamics of our face-to-face engagements. Interactionism thus urges that we prioritize interaction-including processes such as the direct perception of emotions and intentions, affect attunement, coordination and implicit bodily communication, and normative features of the interactive context-as the primary explanandum for understanding the basis of social cognition.

In this talk, I use Moebius Syndrome-a congenital form of bilateral facial paralysis-as a case study to evaluate interactionism and to clarify the role of implicit bodily communication in social cognition. I distinguish two forms of interactionism: moderate and strong interactionism. I argue that, while Moebius Syndrome appears to lend some support to moderate interactionism, it challenges some of the more radical commitments of strong interactionism. I then use this distinction-along with several studies of Moebius Syndrome and emotion recognition-to highlight some ways that implicit bodily communication (facial expressions, gestures, postural adjustments, etc.) may be said to facilitate interpersonal understanding. I conclude with some thoughts concerning the role that interactionism might play in future social cognition research.

11.00-11.30: Coffee

11.30-12.30: Nivedita Gangopadhyay

"Perceiving Minds in Context"

This talk develops the theoretical model of perceptual selection of targets of mental state attribution proposed by Gangopadhyay & Schilbach (under review). We proposed the empirical hypothesis that one perceives the other as a target of mental state ascriptions if the perception of the other's embodied intentionality is such that it triggers in the perceiver action plans targeted at building shared worlds. Future development of the hypothesis would include exploring the types of goals that one anticipates in the action plans constitutive of one's perceptual awareness of the other as an intentional agent. A layered model of goal states according to their psychological complexity, ranging from basic sensorimotor explorations to complex socio-culturally determined goals, could be developed to determine how one's perceptual selection of the other as a target of mental state ascriptions arises from how one anticipates the other to respond to various goals. It may be that perception of the other as a "minded" being is a matter of degree, where a crucial step is moving from "automatic" attribution of mental states to mental state attribution by higherorder cognitive processes of top-down control. In this talk I shall explore the role of goals as offering a main contextual element in perceptual selection of targets of mental state ascription. The approach will raise questions about the scope of embodied cognition views of social cognition.

12.30-13.30: Lunch

13.30-14.30: John Michael and Søren Overgaard

"Taking interaction seriously - but not too seriously"

In the past few years, a number of approaches to social cognition research have emerged that highlight the importance of social interaction in social cognition, and that take more classical, "mindreading" approaches to task for neglecting this. Proponents of such "interactionist" approaches - including the "second-person approach" (Reddy 2008), "interaction theory" (e.g. Gallagher 2001, 2004), and "the enactive approach" (e.g. De Jaegher and Di Paolo 2007; De Jaegher 2009) - often argue that a complete overhaul of social cognition research is necessary in order to accommodate the insights produced by interactionism, and thus sometimes speak of an "interactive turn" or a "new paradigm" (De Jaegher et al. 2010). We argue that such an overhaul is not necessary in order to integrate important insights arising from the interactive perspective. In this paper, we identify several ways in which it is important for social cognition research to take social interaction seriously, and argue that all of them are compatible with and can enrich - and in some cases already have enriched - the mainstream mindreading paradigm.

14.30-15.00: Coffee

15.00-16.00: General discussions