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Social Cognition (PH364)

Humans, and perhaps other animals, can discover much about others’ minds and actions in the right circumstances. But what makes others’ minds and actions intelligible to others? The ultimate starting point seems to be an individual’s movements---the displacements of her joints which determine her bodily configurations. These somehow provide the foundation for understanding their mind and actions. These are so far removed from smiles, fears and beliefs that it hard to understand how humans (or other animals) ever get from mere movements to discovering anything at all about others’ minds and actions. The aim of this module is to understand how social cognition, the processes involved in discriminating, predicting and understanding others’ thoughts, emotions and actions---is possible given the apparent gap between its starting point and its end.

This module will explore questions concerning the possibility of understanding others’ minds and actions, introducing student to philosophical and scientific research on social cognition. These questions may include:

• In what sense, if any, can we perceive others’ actions, emotions or other
• mental states?
• How, if at all, could motor processes enable us to discriminate, predict or understand others’ purposive actions?
• Do we need a dual process theory of social cognition?
• Are goal ascription or mindreading modular processes?
• What evidence would show that nonhuman animals can represent others’ mental states?
• Why might humans make use of multiple models of the mental?
• How do humans segment and read others’ behaviour?
• What is the evidential basis for humans’ knowledge of others’ minds?
• Is it true that ‘[a]ll understanding of the speech of another involves radical interpretation’ (Davidson)?

Social Cognition

This module is worth 15 CATS.

Module Director:

Stephen Butterfill