About this topic
Summary In the late 19th and early 20th Century, many psychologists posited group minds to explain the behavior of crowds and states, as well as the emergence of norms and societal facts. In a world populated by powerful labor unions, anarchist collectives, and radical workers’ parties, each resisting the unfair demands of powerful corporate agents, it seemed reasonable to assume that powerful psychological forces were at play in the production of collective behavior. But these theories of collective mentality relied on such implausibly weak forms of functionalism and such excessively inflationary ontologies that they shared little in common with the theories of mental states that emerged in other parts of philosophy and the cognitive sciences. In the current age of popular uprisings, failing political parties, and increasing corporate power, it come s as no surprise that philosophers, psychologists, and cognitive scientists have once again developed an interest in collective behavior. A number of popular books have attempted to resuscitate claims about collective intelligence and collective decision-making; and there is a rapidly growing philosophical literature on issues of collaboration, collective intentionality, collective decision-making, and collective responsibility. Research on collective mentality spans a wide range of philosophical topics that pertaining to group minds and collective mental states. Like the philosophy of mind more broadly, the investigation of collective mentality overlaps in rich and important ways with the philosophy of action and the philosophy of cognitive science.  On the one hand, there is a long tradition of analyzing the nature and possibility of collective intentionality (this research is mainly catalogued under the 'collective action', 'collective intentionality', and 'collective responsibility' subcategories). On the other hand, there is a more recent field of investigation, grounded in the scientific study of distributed cognition. This research has targeted everything from issues of cognitive architecture, to questions about the possibility of collective consciousness and the possibility of collective mental representation. 
Key works The literature on collective intentionality and collective responsibility is expansive, and key works for each of these areas should be found under those subheadings. From a perspective more heavily grounded in the philosophy of cognitive science, Clark 1994 argues that a Dennettian account of mentality can be extended to cover some types of groups, and Hutchins 1995 develops a framework for studying collective and distributed cognition based on Marr 1982Perron Tollefsen 2003 and Rovane 1997 develop an approach to collective personhood based on the reactive attitudes. Theiner et al 2010 and Tollefsen 2006 develop defenses of the group mind in line with the more familiar extended mind hypothesis (Clark & Chalmers 1998). Sutton et al 2010 builds an empirical and theoretical foundation for the study of collective remembering. Wilson 2001 offers a critical appraisal of the collective psychology tradition that emerged in the late 19th Century, and develops the Social Manifestation Hypothesis as an alternative to positing group minds. Rupert 2005 develops a compelling set of objections to models of collective mentality that depend on appeals to intentionality, while Rupert 2011 offers a critical appraisal of empirical work on collective mentality. Finally, Huebner 2014 offers a sustained defense of the group mind hypothesis that builds on these resources and responds to the most common objections to the hypothesis of collective mentality.
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  1. Two Modes of Collective Belief.Christopher Mcmahon - 2003 - ProtoSociology 18:347-362.
    Margaret Gilbert has defended the view that there is such a thing as genuine collective belief, in contrast to mere collective acceptance. I argue that even if she is right, we need to distinguish two modes of collective belief. On one, a group’s believing something as a body is a matter of its relating to a proposition, as a body, in the same way that an individual who has formed a belief on some matter relates to the proposition believed. On (...)
Collective Mentality, Misc
  1. Collaborative Distributed Decision Making for Large Scale Disaster Relief Operations: Drawing Analogies From Robust Natural Systems.Roberto G. Aldunate, Feniosky Pena‐Mora & Gene E. Robinson - 2005 - Complexity 11 (2):28-38.
  2. Collective Willing and Truth.S. Alexander - 1913 - Mind 22 (85):14-47.
  3. Evolution, Embodiment and the Nature of the Mind.Michael Anderson - manuscript
    In: B. Hardy-Vallee & N. Payette, eds. Beyond the brain: embodied, situated & distributed cognition. (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholar’s Press), in press. Abstract: In this article, I do three main things: 1. First, I introduce an approach to the mind motivated primarily by evolutionary considerations. I do that by laying out four principles for the study of the mind from an evolutionary perspective, and four predictions that they suggest. This evolutionary perspective is completely compatible with, although broader than, the embodied cognition (...)
  4. Scaffolded Memory and Metacognitive Feelings.Santiago Arango-Muñoz - 2013 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 4 (1):135-152.
    Recent debates on mental extension and distributed cognition have taught us that environmental resources play an important and often indispensable role in supporting cognitive capacities. In order to clarify how interactions between the mind –particularly memory– and the world take place, this paper presents the “selection problem” and the “endorsement problem” as structural problems arising from such interactions in cases of mental scaffolding. On the one hand, the selection problem arises each time an agent is confronted with a cognitive problem, (...)
  5. Crime Scene Investigation as Distributed Cognition.Chris Baber, Paul Smith, James Cross, John E. Hunter & Richard McMaster - 2006 - Pragmatics and Cognitionpragmatics and Cognition 14 (2):357-385.
  6. Crime Scene Investigation and Distributed Cognition.Chris Baber, Paul Smith, James Cross, John Hunter & Richard McMaster - 2006 - Pragmatics and Cognition 14 (2):357-386.
    Crime scene investigation is a form of Distributed Cognition. The principal concept we explore in this paper is that of `resource for action'. It is proposed that crime scene investigation employs four primary resources-for-action: the environment, or scene itself, which affords particular forms of search and object retrieval; the retrieved objects, which afford translation into evidence; the procedures that guide investigation, which both constrain the search activity and also provide opportunity for additional activity; the narratives that different agents within the (...)
  7. Phenomenal Consciousness, Collective Mentality, and Collective Moral Responsibility.Matthew Baddorf - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (11):2769-2786.
    Are corporations and other complex groups ever morally responsible in ways that do not reduce to the moral responsibility of their members? Christian List, Phillip Pettit, Kendy Hess, and David Copp have recently defended the idea that they can be. For them, complex groups (sometimes called collectives) can be irreducibly morally responsible because they satisfy the conditions for morally responsible agency; and this view is made more plausible by the claim (made by Theiner) that collectives can have minds. In this (...)
  8. Social Action In Large Groups.Ulrich Baltzer - 2003 - ProtoSociology 18:127-136.
    Large Groups are not constituted simply by adding further members to small groups. There is a qualitative difference between the social actions which take place in small communities and those in large ones. Large communities are irreducibly characterized by anonymity, i.e., the members of large groups don’t know of most of the other members as individual. Therefore, social action in large groups is based on a sign process: each member of a large group is understood as a representative of the (...)
  9. Distributed Mental Models: Mental Models in Distributed Cognitive Systems.Adrian P. Banks & Lynne J. Millward - 2009 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 30 (4):249-266.
    The function of groups as information processors is increasingly being recognised in a number of theories of group cognition. A theme of many of these is an emphasis on sharing cognition. This paper extends current conceptualisations of groups by critiquing the focus on shared cognition and emphasising the distribution of cognition in groups. In particular, it develops an account of the distribution of one cognitive construct, mental models. Mental models have been chosen as a focus because they are used in (...)
  10. At the Threshold of Memory: Collective Memory Between Personal Experience and Political Identity.Jeffrey Barash - 2011 - Meta 3 (2):249-267.
    Collective memory is thought to be something “more” than a conglomeration of personal memories which compose it. Yet, each of us, each individual in every society, remembers from a personal point of view. And if there is memory beyond personal experience through which collective identities are configured, in what “place” might one legitimately situate it? In addressing this question, this article examines the political significance of the distinction between two levels of what are often lumped together under the term of (...)
  11. Qu'est-ce que la mémoire collective ?Jeffrey Andrew Barash - 2006 - Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 2 (2):185-195.
  12. Corporate Crocodile Tears? On the Reactive Attitudes of Corporate Agents.Gunnar Björnsson & Kendy Hess - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 94 (2):273–298.
    Recently, a number of people have argued that certain entities embodied by groups of agents themselves qualify as agents, with their own beliefs, desires, and intentions; even, some claim, as moral agents. However, others have independently argued that fully-fledged moral agency involves a capacity for reactive attitudes such as guilt and indignation, and these capacities might seem beyond the ken of “collective” or “ corporate ” agents. Individuals embodying such agents can of course be ashamed, proud, or indignant about what (...)
  13. We-Experiences, Common Knowledge and the Mode Approach to Collective Intentionality.Olle Blomberg - forthcoming - Journal of Social Philosophy.
    According to we-mode accounts of collective intentionality, an experience is a "we-experience"—that is, part of a jointly attentional episode—in virtue of the way or mode in which the content of the experience is given to the subject of experience. These accounts are supposed to explain how a we-experience can have the phenomenal character of being given to the subject "as ours" rather than merely "as my experience" (Zahavi 2015), and do so in a relatively conceptually and cognitively undemanding way. Galotti (...)
  14. Social Ontology and Collective Intentionality: Critical Essays on the Philosophy of Raimo Tuomela with His Responses, Edited by Gerhard Preyer and Georg Peter. [REVIEW]Olle Blomberg - 2017 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (2017.08.10).
  15. Do Socio-Technical Systems Cognise?Olle Blomberg - 2009 - Proceedings of the 2nd AISB Symposium on Computing and Philosophy.
    The view that an agent’s cognitive processes sometimes include proper parts found outside the skin and skull of the agent is gaining increasing acceptance in philosophy of mind. One main empirical touchstone for this so-called active externalism is Edwin Hutchins’ theory of distributed cognition (DCog). However, the connection between DCog and active externalism is far from clear. While active externalism is one component of DCog, the theory also incorporates other related claims, which active externalists may not want to take on (...)
  16. McDOUGALL, W. - The Group Mind. [REVIEW]B. Bosanquet - 1921 - Mind 30:63.
  17. Distributed Perspectives in Future Workspaces.Roman Boutellier - 2016 - In Martina Plümacher & Günter Abel (eds.), The Power of Distributed Perspectives. De Gruyter. pp. 119-136.
  18. Group Minds.D. H. M. Brooks - 1986 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 64 (4):456-70.
  19. Against `Distributed Cognition'.G. Button - 2008 - Theory, Culture and Society 25 (2):87-104.
  20. Distributed Cognition: An Ectoderm-Centric Perspective. [REVIEW]Jaime F. Cárdenas-García - 2013 - Biosemiotics 6 (3):337-350.
    Distributed cognition is widely recognized as an approach to the study of all cognition. It identifies the distribution of cognitive processes between persons and technology, among people, and across time in the development of the social and material contexts for thinking. This paper suggests an ectoderm-centric perspective as the basis for distributed cognition, and in so doing redefines distributed cognition as the ability of an organism to interact with its environment for the purpose of satisfying its most basic physiological (internal (...)
  21. Imagination in Dialogue: A Collaborative Method of Self-Inquiry.Maria Ellen Chiaia - 1997 - Dissertation, California Institute of Integral Studies
    This dissertation describes and reflects upon the research and development of a method of collaborative imaginal inquiry. In this project, my co-researcher, Ian Grand and I, explored a collaborative, dyadic approach to sandplay work, an imaginal process usually done individually in a clinical setting. It was then broadened to include other forms of collaborative imaginal work and to speculatively explore aspects of self-in-group and self-in-collaboration that have not been previously well documented or reflected upon in the literature. The dissertation is (...)
  22. Mapping Collective Behavior – Beware of Looping.Markus Christen & Peter Brugger - 2014 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 37 (1):80-81.
  23. Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension.Andy Clark - 2008 - Oxford University Press.
    Introduction : brainbound versus extended -- From embodiment to cognitive extension -- The active body -- The negotiable body -- Material symbols -- World, Incorporated -- Boundary disputes -- Mind re-bound -- The cure for cognitive hiccups (HEMC, HEC, HEMC ...) -- Rediscovering the brain -- The limits of embodiment -- Painting, planning, and perceiving -- Disentangling embodiment -- Conclusions : mind-sized bites.
  24. Collective Behaviour.J. I. Cohen - 1939 - The Eugenics Review 30 (4):297.
  25. McDougall, William, The Group Mind. A Sketch of the Principles of Collective Psychology. [REVIEW]Jonas Cohn - 1926 - Société Française de Philosophie, Bulletin 31:601.
  26. Distributed Remembering Through Active Structuring of Activities and Environments.Nils Dahlbäck, Mattias Kristiansson & Fredrik Stjernberg - 2013 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 4 (1):153-165.
    In this paper, we consider a few actual cases of mnemonic strategies among older subjects (older than 65). The cases are taken from an ethnographic study, examining how elderly adults cope with cognitive decline. We believe that these cases illustrate that the process of remembering in many cases involve a complex distributed web of processes involving both internal or intracranial and external sources. Our cases illustrate that the nature of distributed remembering is shaped by and subordinated to the dynamic characteristics (...)
  27. Distributed Reasoning: An Analysis of Where Social and Cognitive Worlds Fuse.Mike Dama & Kevin Dunbar - 1996 - In Garrison W. Cottrell (ed.), Proceedings of the Eighteenth Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Lawrence Erlbaum. pp. 166--170.
  28. Collective Increase of First Impression Bias.Guillaume Deffuant & Sylvie Huet - 2010 - Complexity 15 (5):NA-NA.
  29. The Anti-Sweatshop Movement: Constructing Corporate Moral Agency in the Global Apparel Industry.Rebecca DeWinter - 2001 - Ethics and International Affairs 15 (2):99–115.
    Through the use of rhetoric linking private economic transactions and international labor and human rights standards, the movement has successfully challenged corporate practices that were previously considered unremarkable.
  30. The Slow Process : A Hypothetical Cognitive Adaptation for Distributed Cognitive Networks.Merlin Donald - 2012 - In Jay Schulkin (ed.), New Directions in Philosophy and Cognitive Science: Adaptation and Cephalic Expression. Palgrave-Macmillan.
  31. The Application of Ward's Psychology to the Legal Problem of Corporate Entity.H. C. Dowdall - 1926 - The Monist 36 (1):111-135.
    The unity of the group mind is a psychoplastic unity. In the group mind subjects are integrated through an object and not objects through a subject. It follows, among many much more important consequences, that a scientific analysis and arrangement of the law relating to corporations should proceed in the manner practically indicated in the Law of Limited Companies, Corporations Sole, Trusts, Bankruptcy, Local Government, and so forth, that is to say, by the estatificatian of interests and not by the (...)
  32. The Teacher, the Learner and the Collective Mind.Jon Dron - 2007 - AI and Society 21 (1-2):200-216.
    This paper deals with techniques for tapping processes of self-organisation in adult learning. It looks at systems that make use of evolution and stigmergy (communication through signs left in the environment) to generate a kind of group mind, which both influences and is influenced by the actions of its constituents. Such systems exhibit both high structure and high dialogue, constraining choice and providing freedom at the same time. This makes them very interesting educationally as theory suggests that such opposites cannot (...)
  33. An Experiment on the Collective Pragmatic Competence.B. Dupriez - 1985 - Revue Internationale de Philosophie 39 (155):434-441.
  34. W. McDougall, The Group Mind. [REVIEW]Beatrice Edgell - 1920 - Hibbert Journal 19:165.
  35. Development of Collective Enterprise.Seba Eldridge - 1944 - Philosophical Review 53 (2):216-216.
  36. An Algebraization of Hierarchical and Recursive Distributed Processes.Erwin Engeler & Gerhard Schwärzler - 1995 - In The Combinatory Programme. Birkhäuser. pp. 58--76.
  37. Contributions of Socially Distributed Cognition to Social Epistemology: The Case of Testimony.Anna Estany & David Casacuberta - 2012 - Eidos: Revista de Filosofía de la Universidad Del Norte 16:40-68.
    El objetivo de este artículo es analizar y revisar las normas que filosóficamente asociamos al proceso de testimonio, inquiriendo hasta qué puntoson0 consistentes con los conocimientos empíricos de las ciencias cognitivas.Tradicionalmente, el problema del testimonio surgía cuando, desde una epistemología de corte individualista, se suponía, siguiendo el dictum ya marcado en la Modernidad tanto por racionalistas como por empiristas, de que el conocimiento debía ser testado personalmente. Sin embargo, disciplinas y enfoques recientes, como la Cognición Socialmente Distribuida y la Epistemología (...)
  38. The Adaptive Function of Distributed Remembering: Contributions to the Formation of Collective Memory. [REVIEW]Martin M. Fagin, Jeremy K. Yamashiro & William C. Hirst - 2013 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 4 (1):91-106.
    Empirical research has increasingly turned its attention to distributed cognition. Acts of remembering are embedded in a social, interactional context; cognitive labor is divided between a rememberer and external sources. The present article examines the benefits and costs associated with distributed, collaborative, conversational remembering. Further, we examine the consequences of joint acts of remembering on subsequent individual acts of remembering. Here, we focus on influences on memory through social contagion and socially shared retrieval-induced forgetting. Extending beyond a single social interaction, (...)
  39. Collective Imaginings.Moira Gatens & Genevieve Lloyd - 2000 - Mind 109 (436):904-907.
  40. Models as Parts of Distributed Cognitive Systems.Ronald Giere - manuscript
    Recent work on the role of models in science has revealed a great many kinds of models performing many different roles. In this paper I suggest that one can find much unity among all this diversity by thinking of many models as being components of distributed cognitive systems. I begin by distinguishing the relevant notion of a distributed cognitive system and then give examples of different kinds of models that can be thought of as functioning as components of such systems. (...)
  41. 15 Scientific Cognition as Distributed Cognition.Ronald Giere - 2002 - In Peter Carruthers, Stephen P. Stich & Michael Siegal (eds.), The Cognitive Basis of Science. Cambridge University Press. pp. 285.
  42. Computation and Agency in Scientific Cognition.Ronald N. Giere - unknown
    I begin with a representative example of a contemporary scientific activity, observations using the Hubble Space Telescope, and ask what approaches within the cognitive sciences seem most fruitful as aids in developing an overall account of this sort of scientific activity. After presenting the Hubble Space Telescope System and a recent result, I consider applying a standard computational paradigm to this system. I find difficulties in identifying an appropriate cognitive agent and in making a suitable place for the instrumentation that (...)
  43. Distributed Cognition as Human Centered Although Not Human Bound: Reply to Vaesen 1.Ronald N. Giere - 2011 - Social Epistemology 25 (4):393 - 399.
    At issue is the usefulness of a concept of distributed cognition for the philosophy of science. I have argued for the desirability of regarding scientific systems such as the Hubble Space Telescope as distributed cognitive systems. But I disagree with those who would ascribe cognitive states, such as knowledge, to such systems as a whole, and insist that cognitive states are ascribable only to the human components of such systems. Vaesen, appealing to a well-known ?parity principle,? insists that if there (...)
  44. Distributed Cognition Without Distributed Knowing.Ronald N. Giere - 2007 - Social Epistemology 21 (3):313-320.
    In earlier works, I have argued that it is useful to think of much scientific activity, particularly in experimental sciences, as involving the operation of distributed cognitive systems, as these are understood in the contemporary cognitive sciences. Introducing a notion of distributed cognition, however, invites consideration of whether, or in what way, related cognitive activities, such as knowing, might also be distributed. In this paper I will argue that one can usefully introduce a notion of distributed cognition without attributing other (...)
  45. Distributed Cognition in Epistemic Cultures.Ronald N. Giere - 2002 - Philosophy of Science 69 (4):637--644.
  46. Discussion Note: Distributed Cognition in Epistemic Cultures.Ronald N. Giere - 2002 - Philosophy of Science 69 (4):637-644.
    In Epistemic Cultures (1999), Karin Knorr Cetina argues that different scientific fields exhibit different epistemic cultures. She claims that in high energy physics (HEP) individual persons are displaced as epistemic subjects in favor of experiments themselves. In molecular biology (MB), by contrast, individual persons remain the primary epistemic subjects. Using Ed Hutchins' (1995) account of navigation aboard a traditional US Navy ship as a prototype, I argue that both HEP and MB exhibit forms of distributed cognition. That is, in both (...)
  47. Distributed Cognition: Where the Cognitive and the Social Merge.Ronald N. Giere & B. Moffatt - 2003 - Social Studies of Science 33 (2):301--310.
    Among the many contested boundaries in science studies is that between the cognitive and the social. Here, we are concerned to question this boundary from a perspective within the cognitive sciences based on the notion of distributed cognition. We first present two of many contemporary sources of the notion of distributed cognition, one from the study of artificial neural networks and one from cognitive anthropology. We then proceed to reinterpret two well-known essays by Bruno Latour, ‘Visualization and Cognition: Thinking with (...)
  48. The Role of Agency in Distributed Cognitive Systems.Ronald N. Giere - 2006 - Philosophy of Science 73 (5):710-719.
    In previous publications I have argued that much scientific activity should be thought of as involving the operation of distributed cognitive systems. Since these contributions to the cognitive study of science appear in venues not necessarily frequented by philosophers of science, I begin with a brief introduction to the notion of a distributed cognitive system. I then describe what I take to be an exemplary case of a scientific distributed cognitive system, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). I do not here (...)
  49. Belief and Acceptance as Features of Groups.M. Gilbert - 2002 - ProtoSociology 16:35-69.
    In everyday discourse groups or collectives are often said to believe this or that. The author has previously developed an account of the phenomenon to which such collective belief statements refer. According to this account, in terms that are explained, a group believes that p if its members are jointly committed to believe that p as a body. Those who fulfill these conditions are referred to here as collectively believing* that p. Some philosophers – here labeled rejectionists – have argued (...)
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