Talk: Emma Borg, 8th March

Emma Borg (Reading)

Title: What is the basis of social cognition? On behaviour-reading, mirroring and mindreading.

When: 2pm, Tuesday 8th March

Where: URS 2s14 (Urban and Regional Studies Building)


A common deflationary tendency has emerged recently in both philosophical accounts and comparative animal studies concerned with social cognition. The suggestion in both arenas is that the default mechanism for social cognition is a form of ‘smart behaviour-reading’ which does not require consideration of the mental states of a target. Instead humans and other animals are held to explain or predict the behaviour of conspecifics exclusively or largely through sensitivity to the observable, behavioural (non-mental) features of a situation. This paper examines the plausibility of this deflationary move and argues that, at least in the human case, it is a mistake to take the default method of social cognition to be smart behaviour-reading. Instead we should adopt a genuinely pluralist view on which both behaviour-reading and genuine mindreading have a critical role to play. I conclude by considering how the proposed view relates to discussions about two-system models and the ontology of social cognition.