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Joint Action and the Emergence of Mindreading

By Stephen Butterfill


How can we explain the emergence, in evolution or development, of mindreading? Some conjecture that its emergence involves joint action (Knoblich & Sebanz, 2006; Moll & Tomasello, 2007). Reflection on objections to this conjecture reveals mistakes in leading philosophical accounts of both mindreading and joint action. These lectures aim to identify the mistakes and provide fixes. The fixes involve two steps: the construction of a minimal theory of mind; and an account of the distinct roles for shared intention and social motor representation in explaining what joint action is.

Detailed abstract [pdf]

Time and place

Room H4.01 (Humanities), 4-5.30pm on Tuesdays in Weeks 1-5 of Summer Term 2011-2.

Schedule, handouts and slides
  • Lecture 1: Joint Action and Mindreading: Some Problems [slides] [handout]
  • Lecture 2: Minimal Theory of Mind [slides] [handout]
  • Lecture 2.5: What Are Modules and What Is Their Role in Development? [slides] [handout]
  • Lecture 3: Which Joint Actions Ground Social Cognition? [slides] [handout]
  • Lecture 4: Intention and Motor Representation in Joint Action [slides] [handout]
  • Lecture 5: Interacting Mindreaders (Thursday 31 May, 10am room S2.84) [slides] [handout]


The lectures draw on several papers, some co-authored. Not all are published. None of the lectures will assume you have read any of these papers. The links only work if you're signed in (sorry).

Required reading

There is no required reading for these lectures.

Optional reading

Some requested readings to do before the lectures. Here are some suggestions. The links only work if you're signed in (sorry).

Lecture 2: Minimal Theory of Mind

Key papers for each lecture are included in the handouts. Most are easily available online but please email me if you have difficulty accessing any papers.