What could someone represent that would enable her to track, at least within limits, others' perceptions, knowledge states and beliefs including false beliefs? An obvious possibility is that she might represent these very attitudes as such. It is sometimes tacitly or explicitly assumed that this is the only possible answer. However, we argue that several recent discoveries in developmental, cognitive, and comparative psychology indicate the need for other, less obvious possibilities. Our aim is to meet this need by describing the (...) construction of a minimal theory of mind. Minimal theory of mind is rich enough to explain systematic success on tasks held to be acid tests for theory of mind cognition including many false belief tasks. Yet minimal theory of mind does not require representing propositional attitudes, or any other kind of representation, as such. Minimal theory of mind may be what enables those with limited cognitive resources or little conceptual sophistication, such as infants, chimpanzees, scrub-jays and human adults under load, to track others' perceptions, knowledge states and beliefs. (shrink)
The lack of consensus on how to characterize humans’ capacity for belief reasoning has been brought into sharp focus by recent research. Children fail critical tests of belief reasoning before 3 to 4 years (Wellman, Cross, & Watson, 2001; Wimmer & Perner, 1983), yet infants apparently pass false belief tasks at 13 or 15 months (Onishi & Baillargeon, 2005; Surian, Caldi, & Sperber, 2007). Non-human animals also fail critical tests of belief reasoning but can show very complex social behaviour (e.g., (...) Call & Tomasello, 2005). Fluent social interaction in adult humans implies efficient processing of beliefs, yet direct tests suggest that belief reasoning is cognitively demanding, even for adults (e.g., Apperly, Samson & Humphreys, 2005). We interpret these findings by drawing an analogy with the domain of number cognition, where similarly contrasting results have been observed. We propose that the success of infants and non-human animals on some belief reasoning tasks may be best explained by a cognitively efficient but inflexible capacity for tracking belief-like states. In humans this capacity persists in parallel with later-developing, more flexible but more cognitively demanding theory of mind abilities. (shrink)
Are there distinct roles for intention and motor representation in explaining the purposiveness of action? Standard accounts of action assign a role to intention but are silent on motor representation. The temptation is to suppose that nothing need be said here because motor representation is either only an enabling condition for purposive action or else merely a variety of intention. This paper provides reasons for resisting that temptation. Some motor representations, like intentions, coordinate actions in virtue of representing outcomes; but, (...) unlike intentions, motor representations cannot feature as premises or conclusions in practical reasoning. This implies that motor representation has a distinctive role in explaining the purposiveness of action. It also gives rise to a problem: were the roles of intention and motor representation entirely independent, this would impair effective action. It is therefore necessary to explain how intentions interlock with motor representations. The solution, we argue, is to recognise that the contents of intentions can be partially determined by the contents of motor representations. Understanding this content-determining relation enables better understanding how intentions relate to actions. (shrink)
Joint actions often require agents to track others’ actions while planning and executing physically incongruent actions of their own. Previous research has indicated that this can lead to visuomotor interference effects when it occurs outside of joint action. How is this avoided or overcome in joint actions? We hypothesized that when joint action partners represent their actions as interrelated components of a plan to bring about a joint action goal, each partner’s movements need not be represented in relation to distinct, (...) incongruent proximal goals. Instead they can be represented in relation to a single proximal goal – especially if the movements are, or appear to be, mechanically linked to a more distal joint action goal. To test this, we implemented a paradigm in which participants produced finger movements that were either congruent or incongruent with those of a virtual partner, and either with or without a joint action goal (the joint flipping of a switch, which turned on two light bulbs). Our findings provide partial support for the hypothesis that visuomotor interference effects can be reduced when two physically incongruent actions are represented as mechanically interdependent contributions to a joint action goal. (shrink)
When two or more people coordinate their actions in space and time to produce a joint outcome, they perform a joint action. The perceptual, cognitive, and motor processes that enable individuals to coordinate their actions with others have been receiving increasing attention during the last decade, complementing earlier work on shared intentionality and discourse. This chapter reviews current theoretical concepts and empirical findings in order to provide a structured overview of the state of the art in joint action research. We (...) distinguish between planned and emergent coordination. In planned coordination, agents' behavior is driven by representations that specify the desired outcomes of joint action and the agent's own part in achieving these outcomes. In emergent coordination, coordinated behavior occurs due to perception action couplings that make multiple individuals act in similar ways, independently of joint plans. We review evidence for the two types of coordination and discuss potential synergies between them. (shrink)
Given the premise that joint action plays some role in explaining how humans come to understand minds, what could joint action be? Not what a leading account, Michael Bratman's, says it is. For on that account engaging in joint action involves sharing intentions and sharing intentions requires much of the understanding of minds whose development is supposed to be explained by appeal to joint action. This paper therefore offers an account of a different kind of joint action, an account compatible (...) with the premise about development. The new account is no replacement for the leading account; rather the accounts characterise two kinds of joint action. Where the kind of joint characterised by the leading account involves shared intentions, the new account characterises a kind of joint action involving shared goals. (shrink)
Could interacting mindreaders be in a position to know things which they would be unable to know if they were manifestly passive observers? This paper argues that they could. Mindreading is sometimes reciprocal: the mindreader’s target reciprocates by taking the mindreader as a target for mindreading. The paper explains how such reciprocity can significantly narrow the range of possible interpretations of behaviour where mindreaders are, or appear to be, in a position to interact. A consequence is that revisions and extensions (...) are needed to standard theories of the evidential basis of mindreading. The view also has consequences for understanding how abilities to interact combined with comparatively simple forms of mindreading may explain the emergence, in evolution or development, of sophisticated forms of social cognition. (shrink)
Can humans see causal interactions? Evidence on the visual perception of causal interactions, from Michotte to contemporary work, is best interpreted as showing that we can see some causal interactions in the same sense as that in which we can hear speech. Causal perception, like speech perception, is a form of categorical perception.
What enables individuals to act together? Recent discoveries suggest that a variety of mechanisms are involved. But something fundamental is yet to be investigated. In joint action, agents represent a collective goal, or so it is often assumed. But how, if at all, are collective goals represented in joint action and how do such representations impact performance? To investigate this question we adapted a bimanual paradigm, the circle-line drawing paradigm, to contrast two agents acting in parallel with two agents performing (...) a joint action. Participants were required to draw lines or circles while observing circles or lines being drawn. The findings indicate that interpersonal motor coupling may occur in joint but not parallel action. This suggests that participants in joint actions can represent collective goals motorically. (shrink)
Motor representations live a kind of double life. Although paradigmatically involved in performing actions, they also occur when merely observing others act and sometimes influence thoughts about the goals of observed actions. Further, these influences are content-respecting: what you think about an action sometimes depends in part on how that action is represented motorically in you. The existence of such content-respecting influences is puzzling. After all, motor representations do not feature alongside beliefs or intentions in reasoning about action; indeed, thoughts (...) are inferentially isolated from motor representations. So how could motor representations have content-respecting influences on thoughts? Our aim is to solve this puzzle. In so doing, we shall provide the basis for an account of how experience links the motoric with thought. Such an account matters for understanding how humans think about action: in some cases, we have reasons for thoughts about actions that we would not have if we were unable to represent those actions motorically. (shrink)
Editorial: Joint Action: What Is Shared? Content Type Journal Article Pages 137-146 DOI 10.1007/s13164-011-0062-3 Authors Stephen A. Butterfill, Department of Philosophy, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK Natalie Sebanz, Centre for Cognition, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, & Behaviour, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands Journal Review of Philosophy and Psychology Online ISSN 1878-5166 Print ISSN 1878-5158 Journal Volume Volume 2 Journal Issue Volume 2, Number 2.
In this response to the commentary by Michael and Christensen, we first explain how minimal mindreading is compatible with the development of increasingly sophisticated mindreading behaviours that involve both executive functions and general knowledge, and then sketch one approach to a minimal account of goal ascription.
The authors examined cue competition effects in young children using the blicket detector paradigm, in which objects are placed either singly or in pairs on a novel machine and children must judge which objects have the causal power to make the machine work. Cue competition effects were found in a 5- to 6-year-old group but not in a 4-year-old group. Equivalent levels of forward and backward blocking were found in the former group. Children's counterfactual judgments were subsequently examined by asking (...) whether or not the machine would have gone off in the absence of I of 2 objects that had been placed on it as a pair. Cue competition effects were demonstrated only in 5- to 6-year-olds using this mode of assessing causal reasoning. (shrink)
Modules are widely held to play a central role in explaining mental development and in accounts of the mind generally. But there is much disagreement about what modules are, which shows that we do not adequately understand modularity. This paper outlines a Fodoresque approach to understanding one type of modularity. It suggests that we can distinguish modular from nonmodular cognition by reference to the kinds of process involved, and that modular cognition differs from nonmodular forms of cognition in being a (...) special kind of computational process. The paper concludes by considering implications for the role of modules in explaining mental development. (shrink)
This chapter begins with a discussion of the significance of studies of aspects of tool use in understanding causal cognition. It argues that tool use studies reveal the most basic type or causal understanding being put to use, in a way that studies that focus on learning statistical relationships between cause and effect or studies of perceptual causation do not. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
Few things matter more than the mental states of those nearby. Their ignorance defines limits on cooperation and presents opportunities to exploit in competition. What others feel, see and know can also provide information about events otherwise beyond your ken. It’s no surprise, then, that abilities to track others’ mental states are widespread. Many animals, including scrub jays, ravens, goats, dogs, ring-tailed lemurs, monkeys and chimpanzees, reliably vary their actions in ways that are appropriate given facts about another’s mental states. (...) What underpins such abilities to track others’ mental states? (shrink)
Current theory-of-mind research faces the challenge of reconciling two sets of seemingly incompatible findings: Whereas children come to solve explicit verbal false belief tasks from around 4years of age, recent studies with various less explicit measures such as looking time, anticipatory looking, and spontaneous behavior suggest that even infants can succeed on some FB tasks. In response to this tension, two-systems theories propose to distinguish between an early-developing system, tracking simple forms of mental states, and a later-developing system, based on (...) fully developed concepts of belief and other propositional attitudes. One prediction of such theories is that the early-developing system has signature limits concerning aspectuality. We tested this prediction in two experiments. The first experiment showed that 2- and 3-year-olds take into account a protagonist's true or false belief about the location of an object in their active helping behavior. In contrast, toddlers' helping behavior did not differentiate between true and false belief conditions when the protagonist's belief essentially involved aspectuality. Experiment 2 replicated these findings with a more stringent method designed to rule out more parsimonious explanations. Taken together, the current findings are compatible with the possibility that early theory-of-mind reasoning is subject to signature limits as predicted by the two-systems account. (shrink)
Reflection on testimony provides novel arguments for anti-individualism. What is anti-individualism? Sanford Goldberg's book defends three main claims under this heading: first, facts about the contents of beliefs do not supervene on individualistic facts about the believers ; second, an individual's epistemic entitlement to accept a piece of testimony depends on facts about her peers ; third, processes by which some humans acquire knowledge from testimony includes activities performed for them by others . Each of these three claims is argued (...) for separately from premises about the ways in which humans, adult and child, succeed in gaining knowledge by testimony. The three arguments provide the structure for Anti-Individualism.Goldberg's argument for the first claim – that the contents of beliefs do not supervene on individualistic facts about the believers – begins from uncontroversial facts about testimony. Gaining knowledge by testimony depends on knowing the meanings of some utterances, and it is possible to know the meaning of a person's utterance while knowing little that would distinguish this person from anyone else . The best explanation of how this is possible involves postulating linguistic norms which entail facts about the linguistic meanings of utterances . Now in some cases of testimony, a hearer acquires a belief whose content is the linguistic meaning of a speaker's utterance, where the linguistic meaning of this utterance is determined by linguistic norms . But linguistic norms might have been different from what they are even while the person's and her audience's non-relational properties remained unaltered . And in such a case, the hearer would have acquired a belief with a different content . Therefore, ‘Psychological facts such as believing that p do not supervene on the individualistic facts regarding the subject’ …. (shrink)
Sensitivity to others’ actions is essential for social animals like humans and a fundamental requirement for any kind of social cognition. Unsurprisingly, it is present in humans from early in the first year of life. But what processes underpin infants’ sensitivity to others’ actions? Any attempt to answer this question must solve twin puzzles about the development of goal tracking. Why does some, but not all, of infants’ goal tracking appear to be limited by their abilities to represent the observed (...) action motorically at the time it occurs? And why does their sensitivity to action sometimes manifest itself differently in dishabituation, pupil dilation and anticipatory looking? Solving these twin puzzles is critical for understanding humans’ earliest sensitivity to others’ actions. After introducing the puzzles, this paper argues that solving them may require identifying multiple, distinct processes for tracking the targets and goals of actions. (shrink)
It is consistent with the evidence in The Origin of Concepts to conjecture that infants' causal representations, like their numerical representations, are not continuous with adults', so that bootstrapping is needed in both cases.
Our motor system can generate representations which carry information about the goals of another agent's actions. However, it is not known whether motor representations play a deeper role in social understanding, and, in particular, whether they enable tracking others' beliefs. Here we show that, for adult observers, reliably manifesting an ability to track another's false belief critically depends on representing the agent's potential actions motorically. One signature of motor representations is that they can be disrupted by constraints on an observed (...) agent's action capacities. We therefore used a `mummification' technique to manipulate whether the agent in a visual ball-detection task was free to act or whether he was visibly constrained from acting. Adults' reaction times reliably reflected the agent's beliefs only when the agent was free to act on the ball and not when the agent was visibly constrained from acting. Furthermore, it was the agent's constrained action capabilities, rather than any perceptual novelty, that determined whether adult observers' reaction times reliably reflected the agent's beliefs. These findings signal that our motor system may underpin more of social cognition than previously imagined, and, in particular, that motor representations may underpin automatic false-belief tracking. (shrink)
Psychological research into children’s sensitivity to testimony has primarily focused on their ability to judge the likely reliability of speakers. However, verbal testimony is only one means by which children learn from others. We review recent research exploring children’s early social referencing and imitation, as well as their sensitivity to speakers’ knowledge, beliefs, and biases, to argue that children treat information and informants with reasonable scepticism. As children’s understanding of mental states develops, they become ever more able to critically evaluate (...) whether to believe new information. (shrink)
Anticipatory looking on mindreading tasks can indicate our expectation of an agent's action. The challenge is that social situations are often more complex, involving instances where we need to track an agent's false belief to successfully identify the outcome to which an action is directed. If motor processes can guide how action goals are understood, it is conceivable— where that kind of goal ascription occurs in false-belief tasks— for motor representations to account for someone's belief-like state. Testing adults in a (...) real-time interactive helping scenario, we discovered that participants' early mediolateral motor activity foreshadowed the agent's belief-based action preparation. These results suggest fast belief-tracking can modulate motor representations generated in the course of one's interaction with an agent. While adults' leaning, and anticipatory looking, revealed the contribution of fast false-belief tracking, participants did not correct the agent's mistake in their final helping action. These discoveries suggest that adults may not necessarily use another's belief during overt social interaction or find reflecting on another's belief as being normatively relevant to one's own choice of action. Our interactive task design offers a promising way to investigate how motor and mindreading processes may be variously integrated. (shrink)