Toward an integrative account of social cognition: marrying theory of mind and interactionism to study the interplay of Type 1 and Type 2 processes

Abstract

Traditional theory of mind (ToM) accounts for social cognition have been at the basis of most studies in the social cognitive neurosciences. However, in recent years, the need to go beyond traditional ToM accounts for understanding real life social interactions has become all the more pressing. At the same time it remains unclear whether alternative accounts, such as interactionism, can yield a sufficient description and explanation of social interactions. We argue that instead of considering ToM and interactionism as mutually exclusive opponents, they should be integrated into a more comprehensive account of social cognition. We draw on dual process models of social cognition that contrast two different types of social cognitive processing. The first type (labeled Type 1) refers to process es that are fast, efficient, stimulus-driven, and relatively inflexible. The second type (labeled Type 2) refers to processes that are relatively slow, cognitively laborious, flexible, and may involve conscious control. We argue that while interactionism captures aspects of social cognition mostly related to Type 1 processes, ToM is more focused on those based on Type 2 processes. We suggest that real life social interactions are rarely based on either Type 1 or Type 2 processes alone. On the contrary, we propose that in most cases both types of processes are simultaneously involved and that social behavior may be sustained by the interplay between these two types of processes. Finally, we discuss how the new integrative framework can guide experimental research on social interaction.

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2015-08-26

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Author Profiles

Wouter Van Den Bos
Stanford University
Vivian Bohl
University of Tartu

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