About this topic
Summary

Joint attention involves two (or more) subjects attending to an event or object together, where the attention of each participant is to some degree dependent on the attention of the other. It is sometimes said that joint attention is ‘wholly overt’ or ‘out in the open’ between the participants, where this means that they are both fully aware that they are together attending to the event or object (although so-called 'lean' accounts of joint attention, deny that this is a necessary condition for joint attention).  A canonical example of joint attention would be where two people are sitting opposite each other, discussing and observing an object that lies between them. The phenomena can be contrasted with shared attention where two people are each attending to an object, but are doing so separately, such that the attention of each person is of no relevance to the other, and does not figure in their experience.

Philosophical discussions of joint attention have tended to focus on two questions: firstly, how the apparent epistemic and phenomenological openness of joint attention can be explained without recourse to a complex series of overlapping and embedded mental states. Secondly, how joint attention can be understood as providing a normative and evidential basis for communication and joint action.  Within cognitive science, joint attention has been discussed with relation to the nature of autism, the Theory of Mind debate, the development of communicative intentions and the development of word-learning in infants. 

Key works

There are three edited volumes that contain many of the key texts in this area - Moore & Dunham 1995 Eilan et al 2005 and Seemann 2012. The first is predominantly written by psychologists, while the latter two include a mix of contributions by philosophers, neuroscientists and psychologists. Early discussions in philosophy relating to the topic of joint attention can be found in Husserl 1960, Schutz 1970,Schiffer 1972 and Davidson 1992. Early discussions in the developmental psychology literature can be found in Scaife and Bruner 1975 and Trevarthen 1979.

Introductions

The introductions to Moore & Dunham 1995 Eilan et al 2005, and Seemann 2012 would provide the student with a good starting point on the topic. 

Related categories

152 found
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1 — 50 / 152
  1. An Object-Dependent Perspective on Joint Attention.John Campbell - forthcoming - In Axel Seemann (ed.), Joint Attention: New Developments in Philosophy, Psychology and Neuroscience. The MIT Press.
  2. The Phenomenon of Joint Attention.Jasmina Ivšac - forthcoming - Mind.
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  3. Control of Robot Manipulator in Joint Space.W. Khalil & E. Dombre - forthcoming - Hermes. France.
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  4. SIG/STAR-SIG/ES Joint Symposium Session Introduction.Chads Pearson - forthcoming - Semiotics.
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  5. What We Do and Presuppose When We Demonstrate.Eduarda Calado Barbosa & Felipe Nogueira De Carvalho - 2021 - Veritas – Revista de Filosofia da Pucrs 65 (3):e38525.
    In this paper, we defend that demonstratives are expressions of joint attention. Though this idea is not exactly new in the philosophical or linguistic literature, we argue here that their proponents have not yet shown how to incorporate these observations into more traditional theories of demonstratives. Our purpose is then to attempt to fill this gap. We argue that coordinated attentional activities are better integrated into a full account of demonstratives as meta-pragmatic information. Our claim is twofold. First, we claim (...)
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  6. Can a Wise Society Be Free? Gilbert, Group Knowledge and Democratic Theory.Joshua Anderson - 2020 - Ethics, Politics and Society 3:28-48.
    Recently, Margaret Gilbert has argued that it appears that the wisdom of a society impinges, greatly, on its freedom. In this article, I show that Gilbert’s “negative argument” fails to be convincing. On the other hand, there are important lessons, particularly for democratic theory, that can be by looking carefully, and critically, at her argument. This article will proceed as follows. First, I present Gilbert’s argument. Next, I criticize her understanding of freedom, and then, using arguments from Christopher McMahon, criticize (...)
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  7. Coordinating Attention Requires Coordinated Senses.Lucas Battich, Merle T. Fairhurst & Ophelia Deroy - 2020 - Psychonomic Bulletin and Review 27 (6):1126-1138.
    From playing basketball to ordering at a food counter, we frequently and effortlessly coordinate our attention with others towards a common focus: we look at the ball, or point at a piece of cake. This non-verbal coordination of attention plays a fundamental role in our social lives: it ensures that we refer to the same object, develop a shared language, understand each other’s mental states, and coordinate our actions. Models of joint attention generally attribute this accomplishment to gaze coordination. But (...)
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  8. Joint Attention and Perceptual Experience.Lucas Battich & Bart Geurts - 2020 - Synthese: doi: 10.1007/s11229-020-02602-6.
    Joint attention customarily refers to the coordinated focus of attention between two or more individuals on a common object or event, where it is mutually “open” to all attenders that they are so engaged. We identify two broad approaches to analyse joint attention, one in terms of cognitive notions like common knowledge and common awareness, and one according to which joint attention is fundamentally a primitive phenomenon of sensory experience. John Campbell’s relational theory is a prominent representative of the latter (...)
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  9. For-Me-Ness, For-Us-Ness, and the We-Relationship.Felipe León - 2020 - Topoi 39 (3):547-558.
    This article investigates the relationship between for-me-ness and sociality. I start by pointing out some ambiguities in claims pursued by critics that have recently pressed on the relationship between the two notions. I next articulate a question concerning for-me-ness and sociality that builds on the idea that, occasionally at least, there is something it is like ‘for us’ to have an experience. This idea has been explored in recent literature on shared experiences and collective intentionality, and it gestures towards the (...)
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  10. From Joint Attention to Common Knowledge [Critical Notice]. [REVIEW]Michael Wilby - 2020 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 41 (3 and 4):293-306.
    What is the relation between joint attention and common knowledge? On the one hand, the relation seems tight: the easiest and most reliable way of knowing something in common with another is for you and that other to be attentively aware of what you are together experiencing. On the other hand, they couldn’t seem further apart: joint attention is a mere perceptual phenomena that infants are capable of engaging in from nine months of age, whereas common knowledge is a cognitive (...)
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  11. Modest Sociality, Minimal Cooperation and Natural Intersubjectivity.Michael Wilby - 2020 - In Minimal Cooperation and Shared Agency. Switzerland: pp. 127-148.
    What is the relation between small-scale collaborative plans and the execution of those plans within interactive contexts? I argue here that joint attention has a key role in explaining how shared plans and shared intentions are executed in interactive contexts. Within singular action, attention plays the functional role of enabling intentional action to be guided by a prior intention. Within interactive joint action, it is joint attention, I argue, that plays a similar functional role of enabling the agents to act (...)
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  12. Eye Gaze as a Means of Giving and Seeking Information During Musical Interaction.Laura Bishop, Carlos Cancino-Chacón & Werner Goebl - 2019 - Consciousness and Cognition 68:73-96.
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  13. Socially Extending the Mind Through Social Affordances.Eros Moreira de Carvalho - 2019 - In Steven Gouveia & Manuel Curado (eds.), Automata's Inner Movie: Science and Philosophy of Mind. "Delaware, USA": Vernon Press. pp. 193-212.
    The extended mind thesis claims that at least some cognitive processes extend beyond the organism’s brain in that they are constituted by the organism’s actions on its surrounding environment. A more radical move would be to claim that social actions performed by the organism could at least constitute some of its mental processes. This can be called the socially extended mind thesis. Based on the notion of affordance as developed in the ecological psychology tradition, I defend the position that perception (...)
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  14. Monuments as Commitments: How Art Speaks to Groups and How Groups Think in Art.C. Thi Nguyen - 2019 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 100 (4):971-994.
    Art can be addressed, not just to individuals, but to groups. Art can even be part of how groups think to themselves – how they keep a grip on their values over time. I focus on monuments as a case study. Monuments, I claim, can function as a commitment to a group value, for the sake of long-term action guidance. Art can function here where charters and mission statements cannot, precisely because of art’s powers to capture subtlety and emotion. In (...)
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  15. We‐Experiences, Common Knowledge, and the Mode Approach to Collective Intentionality.Olle Blomberg - 2018 - Journal of Social Philosophy 49 (1):183-203.
    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 (...)
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  16. Affordances Sociais e a Tese da Mente Estendida.Eros Carvalho - 2018 - Proceedings of the Brazilian Research Group on Epistemology 2018: Social Epistemology.
    A tese da mente estendida alega que ao menos alguns processos cognitivos se estendem para além do cérebro do organismo no sentido de que eles são constituídos por ações realizadas por esse organismo no ambiente ao seu redor. Um movimento mais radical seria alegar que ações sociais realizadas pelo organismo poderiam pelo menos constituir alguns dos seus processos cognitivos. Isso pode ser chamando de tese da mente socialmente estendida. Baseando-me na noção de affordance tal como ela foi desenvolvida na tradição (...)
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  17. Viewing Others as Equals: The Non-Cognitive Roots of Shared Intentionality.Alejandro Rosas & Juan Pablo Bermúdez - 2018 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 9 (3):485-502.
    We propose two adjustments to the classic view of shared intentionality as based on conceptual-level cognitive skills. The first one takes into account that infants and young children display this capacity, but lack conceptual-level cognitive skills. The second one seeks to integrate cognitive and non-cognitive skills into that capacity. This second adjustment is motivated by two facts. First, there is an enormous difference between human infants and our closest living primate relatives with respect to the range and scale of goal (...)
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  18. Co-Subjective Consciousness Constitutes Collectives.Michael Schmitz - 2018 - Journal of Social Philosophy 49 (1):137-160.
    In this paper I want to introduce and defend what I call the "subject mode account" of collective intentionality. I propose to understand collectives from joint attention dyads over small informal groups of various types to organizations, institutions and political entities such as nation states, in terms of their self-awareness. On the subject mode account, the self-consciousness of such collectives is constitutive for their being. More precisely, their self-representation as subjects of joint theoretical and practical positions towards the world – (...)
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  19. Lucky Joint Action.Julius Schönherr - 2018 - Philosophical Psychology 32 (1):123-142.
    In this paper, I argue that joint action permits a certain degree of luck. The cases I have in mind exhibit the following structure: each participant believes that the intended ends of each robustly support the joint action. This belief turns out to be false. Due to lucky circumstances, the discordance in intention never becomes common knowledge. However, common knowledge of the relevant intentions would have undermined the joint action altogether. The analysis of such cases shows the extent to which (...)
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  20. Group Flow.Tom Cochrane - 2017 - In Micheline Lesaffre, Pieter-Jan Maes & Marc Leman (eds.), The Routledge Companion of Embodied Music Interaction. London, UK: Routledge. pp. 133-140.
    In this chapter I analyse group flow: a state in which performers report intense interpersonal absorption with the music and each other. I compare group flow to individual flow, and argue that the same essential structure can be discerned. I argue that group flow does not justify an anti-representationalist enactivist interpretation. However, I claim that the cognitive task in which the music is produced is irreducibly collective.
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  21. A History of Emerging Modes?Michael Schmitz - 2016 - Journal of Social Ontology 2 (1):87-103.
    In this paper I first introduce Tomasello’s notion of thought and his account of its emergence and development through differentiation, arguing that it calls into question the theory bias of the philosophical tradition on thought as well as its frequent atomism. I then raise some worries that he may be overextending the concept of thought, arguing that we should recognize an area of intentionality intermediate between action and perception on the one hand and thought on the other. After that I (...)
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  22. From Joint Attention to Communicative Action: Some Remarks on Critical Theory, Social Ontology and Cognitive Science.Matteo Bianchin - 2015 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 41 (6):593-608.
    In this article I consider the relevance of Tomasello’s work on social cognition to the theory of communicative action. I argue that some revisions are needed to cope with Tomasello’s results, but they do not affect the core of the theory. Moreover, they arguably reinforce both its explanatory power and the plausibility of its normative claims. I proceed in three steps. First, I compare and contrast Tomasello’s views on the ontogeny of human social cognition with the main tenets of Habermas’ (...)
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  23. Simulation and the We-Mode. A Cognitive Account of Plural First Persons.Matteo Bianchin - 2015 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 45 (4-5):442-461.
    In this article, I argue that a capacity for mindreading conceived along the line of simulation theory provides the cognitive basis for forming we-centric representations of actions and goals. This explains the plural first personal stance displayed by we-intentions in terms of the underlying cognitive processes performed by individual minds, while preserving the idea that they cannot be analyzed in terms of individual intentional states. The implication for social ontology is that this makes sense of the plural subjectivity of joint (...)
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  24. Scaffolded Joint Action as a Micro–Foundation of Organizational Learning.Brian Gordon & Georg Theiner - 2015 - In Charles B. Stone & Lucas Bietti (eds.), Contextualizing Human Memory: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Understanding How Individuals and Groups Remember the Past. Psychology Press. pp. 154-186.
    Organizational learning, at the broadest levels, as it has come to be understood within the organization theory and management literatures, concerns the experientially driven changes in knowledge processes, structures, and resources that enable organizations to perform skillfully in their task environments (Argote and Miron–Spektor, 2011). In this chapter, we examine routines and capabilities as an important micro–foundation for organizational learning. Adopting a micro–foundational approach in line with Barney and Felin (2013), we propose a new model for explaining how routines and (...)
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  25. Perception, Causation, and Objectivity, Edited by Johannes Roessler, Hemdat Lerman, and Naomi Eilan.D. Danks - 2014 - Mind 123 (490):635-639.
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  26. Joint Attention and Understanding Others.Michael Schmitz - 2014 - Synthesis Philosophica 29 (2):235-251.
    In this paper I criticize theory-biased and overly individualist approaches to understanding others and introduce the PAIR account of joint attention as a pragmatic, affectively charged intentional relation. I argue that this relation obtains in virtue of intentional contents in the minds of the co-attenders, and – against the received understanding of intentional states as propositional attitudes – that we should recognize what I call “subject mode” and “position mode” intentional content. Based on findings from developmental psychology, I propose that (...)
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  27. “Gaze Leading”: Initiating Simulated Joint Attention Influences Eye Movements and Choice Behavior.Andrew P. Bayliss, Emily Murphy, Claire K. Naughtin, Ada Kritikos, Leonhard Schilbach & Stefanie I. Becker - 2013 - Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 142 (1):76.
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  28. Dharmakirti, Davidson, and Knowing Reality.Lajos Brons - 2013 - Comparative Philosophy 3 (1):30-57.
    If we distinguish phenomenal effects from their noumenal causes, the former being our conceptual(ized) experiences, the latter their grounds or causes in reality ‘as it is’ independent of our experience, then two contradictory positions with regards to the relationship between these two can be distinguished: either phenomena are identical with their noumenal causes, or they are not. Davidson is among the most influential modern defenders of the former position, metaphysical non-dualism. Dharmakīrti’s strict distinction between ultimate and conventional reality, on the (...)
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  29. Mead, Joint Attention, and the Human Difference. Cahoone - 2013 - The Pluralist 8 (2):1.
    The struggle between the parties bent on inflating humanity's self-conception and those bent on deflating it continues. Mind, consciousness, soul, reason, free will, language, culture, tool-use—all have been invoked as the unique character of the human, some deriving from Judeo-Christian religion, others from classical philosophy and modern anthropology. Opponents, sometimes motivated by ethical concerns about the treatment of animals, and buoyed by scientific advances in animal and especially primate studies, have either deconstructed these traits or ascribed them to nonhumans. Seeking (...)
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  30. Delighting in Natural Beauty: Joint Attention and the Phenomenology of Nature Aesthetics.Johan De Smet & Helen De Cruz - 2013 - European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 5 (4):167-186.
    Empirical research in the psychology of nature appreciation suggests that humans across cultures tend to evaluate nature in positive aesthetic terms, including a sense of beauty and awe. They also frequently engage in joint attention with other persons, whereby they are jointly aware of sharing attention to the same event or object. This paper examines how, from a natural theological perspective, delight in natural beauty can be conceptualized as a way of joining attention to creation. Drawing on an analogy between (...)
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  31. Joint Attention: New Developments in Psychology, Philosophy of Mind, and Social Neuroscience by Axel Seemann.James M. Dow - 2013 - Humana Mente 6 (24).
  32. The Joint Development of Hemispheric Lateralization for Words and Faces.Eva M. Dundas, David C. Plaut & Marlene Behrmann - 2013 - Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 142 (2):348.
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  33. Joint Attention in Joint Action.Anika Fiebich & Shaun Gallagher - 2013 - Philosophical Psychology 26 (4):571-87.
    In this paper, we investigate the role of intention and joint attention in joint actions. Depending on the shared intentions the agents have, we distinguish between joint path-goal actions and joint final-goal actions. We propose an instrumental account of basic joint action analogous to a concept of basic action and argue that intentional joint attention is a basic joint action. Furthermore, we discuss the functional role of intentional joint attention for successful cooperation in complex joint actions. Anika Fiebich is PhD (...)
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  34. The Attention-Grammar Interface: Eye-Gaze Cues Structural Choice in Children and Adults.Paul Ibbotson, Elena V. M. Lieven & Michael Tomasello - 2013 - Cognitive Linguistics 24 (3).
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  35. Joint Attention as the Key to the Distinction Between Man and Animal?Petr Urban - 2013 - Filosoficky Casopis 61 (4):483-496.
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  36. The Cartesian Residue in Intersubjectivity and Child Development.Michael D. Barber - 2012 - Schutzian Research 4:91-110.
    This paper argues that Husserl’s account of adult recognition of another allows for immediate, noninferential, analogical access to the other, though onedoes not experience the other’s experience as s/he does. The passive-associative processes at work in adult recognition of another make possible infant syncretic sociability and play a role in constituting the infant’s self prior to reflection. The reflective perspective of the psychologist and philosopher discovers that such infant experiences, though at first seeming indistinguishable from their parents’ experience, belong to (...)
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  37. Coming to Terms: Quantifying the Benefits of Linguistic Coordination.Riccardo Fusaroli, Bahador Bahrami, Karsten Olsen, Andreas Roepstorff, Geraint Rees, Chris Frith & Kristian Tylén - 2012 - Psychological Science 23 (8):931-939.
    Sharing a public language facilitates particularly efficient forms of joint perception and action by giving interlocutors refined tools for directing attention and aligning conceptual models and action. We hypothesized that interlocutors who flexibly align their linguistic practices and converge on a shared language will improve their cooperative performance on joint tasks. To test this prediction, we employed a novel experimental design, in which pairs of participants cooperated linguistically to solve a perceptual task. We found that dyad members generally showed a (...)
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  38. A Naturalistic Argument for the Irreducibility of Collective Intentionality.Mattia Gallotti - 2012 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 42 (1):3-30.
    According to many philosophers and scientists, human sociality is explained by our unique capacity to “share” attitudes with others. The conditions under which mental states are shared have been widely debated in the past two decades, focusing especially on the issue of their reducibility to individual intentionality and the place of collective intentions in the natural realm. It is not clear, however, to what extent these two issues are related and what methodologies of investigation are appropriate in each case. In (...)
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  39. Like the Breathability of Air: Embodied Embedded Communication.Willem F. G. Haselager - 2012 - Pragmatics and Cognition 20 (2):263-274.
    I present experimental and computational research, inspired by the perspective of Embodied Embedded Cognition, concerning various aspects of language as supporting Everett's interactionist view of language. Based on earlier and ongoing work, I briefly illustrate the contribution of the environment to the systematicity displayed in linguistic performance, the importance of joint attention for the development of a shared vocabulary, the role of (limited) traveling for language diversification, the function of perspective taking in social communication, and the bodily nature of understanding (...)
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  40. The Phenomenology of Joint Action: Self-Agency Vs. Joint-Agency.Elisabeth Pacherie - 2012 - In Seemann Axel (ed.), Joint Attention: New Developments. MIT Press.
    This chapter aims at investigating the phenomenology of joint action and at gaining a better understanding of (1) how the sense of agency one experiences when engaged in a joint action differs from the sense of agency one has for individual actions and (2) how the sense of agency one experiences when engaged in a joint action differs according to the type of joint action and to the role one plays in it.
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  41. Joint Attention: New Developments.Axel Seemann (ed.) - 2012 - MIT Press.
    Academic interest in the phenomenon of joint attention -- the capacity to attend to an object together with another creature -- has increased rapidly over the past two decades. Yet it isn't easy to spell out in detail what joint attention is, how it ought to be characterized, and what exactly its significance consists in. The writers for this volume address these and related questions by drawing on a variety of disciplines, including developmental and comparative psychology, philosophy of mind, and (...)
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  42. Introduction to Debates on Embodied Social Cognition.Shannon Spaulding - 2012 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 11 (4):431-448.
    Embodied social cognition (ESC) aims to explicate how our embodiment shapes our knowledge of others, and in what this knowledge of others consists. Although there is much diversity amongst ESC accounts, common to all these accounts is the idea that our normal everyday interactions consist in non-mentalistic embodied engagements. In recent years, several theorists have developed and defended innovative and controversial accounts of ESC. These accounts challenge, and offer deflationary alternatives to, the standard cognitivist accounts of social cognition. As ESC (...)
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  43. Embodying the False-Belief Tasks.Michael Wilby - 2012 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 11 (4):519-540.
    Embodied approaches to mindreading have tended to define themselves in contrast to cognitive approaches to social mindreading. One side effect of this has been a lack of engagement with key areas in the study of social cognition—in particular the topic of how we gain an understanding of the referential nature of others’ thoughts, and how that understanding develops from infancy. I argue that embodied accounts of mindreading are well equipped to enter into this debate, by making use of the notion (...)
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  44. The Dewey Lectures 2007: Self and Self-Understanding.Tyler Burge - 2011 - Journal of Philosophy 108 (6-7).
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  45. Elementary Mind Minding, Enactivist-Style.Daniel D. Hutto - 2011 - In A. Seemann (ed.), Joint Attention: New Developments in Philosophy, Psychology, and Neuroscience. MIT Press.
    The core claim of this paper is that mind minding of the sort required for the simplest and most pervasive forms of joint attentional activity is best understood and explained in non-representational, enactivist terms. In what follows I will attempt to convince the reader of its truth in three steps. The first step, section two, clarifies the target explanandum. The second step, section three, is wholly descriptive. It highlights the core features of a Radically Enactivist proposal about elementary mind minding, (...)
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  46. Joint-Attention-Robots Aiming at Recursive Understanding of Intentions.Takeshi Konno & Masayoshi Shibata - 2011 - Kagaku Tetsugaku 44 (2):2_29-2_45.
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  47. Doing Things with Music.Joel W. Krueger - 2011 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 10 (1):1-22.
    This paper is an exploration of how we do things with music—that is, the way that we use music as an esthetic technology to enact micro-practices of emotion regulation, communicative expression, identity construction, and interpersonal coordination that drive core aspects of our emotional and social existence. The main thesis is: from birth, music is directly perceived as an affordance-laden structure. Music, I argue, affords a sonic world, an exploratory space or nested acoustic environment that further affords possibilities for, among other (...)
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  48. Foundation in Joint Attention.Henrike Moll & Andrew N. Meltzoff - 2011 - In Johannes Roessler, Hemdat Lerman & Naomi Eilan (eds.), Perception, Causation, and Objectivity. Oxford University Press. pp. 286.
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  49. Perspective-Taking and its Foundation in Joint Attention.Henrike Moll & Andrew N. Meltzoff - 2011 - In Johannes Roessler, Hemdat Lerman & Naomi Eilan (eds.), Perception, Causation, and Objectivity. Oxford University Press.
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  50. Framing Joint Action.Elisabeth Pacherie - 2011 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 2 (2):173-192.
    Many philosophers have offered accounts of shared actions aimed at capturing what makes joint actions intentionally joint. I first discuss two leading accounts of shared intentions, proposed by Michael Bratman and Margaret Gilbert. I argue that Gilbert’s account imposes more normativity on shared intentions than is strictly needed and that Bratman’s account requires too much cognitive sophistication on the part of agents. I then turn to the team-agency theory developed by economists that I see as offering an alternative route to (...)
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