Reading Minds: A Guide to the Cognitive Neuroscience Revolution


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On the interpretation side, story recipients bring to bear on this information prior knowledge about categories or types of individuals—categories derived from social, literary, and also text-specific knowledge Schneider : — But the interplay between characterizing information and categorization processes is more complicated than the previous paragraph would suggest.

Interpreters bring to bear on characters not only socially grounded, literature-based, and text-specific categories of individuals, but also the more fundamental concept of person itself—that is, ways of engaging with persons that emerge over the course of ontogenetic development and that continue to support practices of embodied interaction later in life Herman a : chap.

Jannidis : —; Trevarthen In turn, some narratives e. In such contexts, the process of making sense of a narrative begins to overlap with that of using stories to make sense of the world, since interpreting the text entails reassessing what entities belong in the category of person and, by extension, the relationship between persons and nonpersons.

Since important contributions and refinements continue to be made to the focal areas for research listed in section 3. In addition, several other, overarching issues warrant further consideration when it comes to study of the mind-narrative nexus. A first key issue is how best to foster genuine dialogue or interaction between scholarship on narrative and the sciences of mind—as opposed to a unidirectional borrowing, by narrative scholars, of ideas from the cognitive sciences.

The argument is that the mind-narrative relationship cannot be exhaustively characterized by the arts and humanities, by the social sciences, or by the natural sciences taken alone; hence genuine dialogue and exchange across these fields of endeavor, rather than unidirectional borrowing from a particular field that thereby becomes dominant, will be required to address how mental states, capacities, and dispositions provide grounds for or, conversely, are grounded in narrative experiences.

Instead of there being any subordination of humanistic vocabularies and methods to those of the social or natural sciences, or vice versa, in a transdisciplinary approach different frameworks for inquiry will converge on various dimensions of the mind-narrative nexus. How might the choice of stories from different periods, genres, or cultural traditions affect the way theorists characterize the mental states and processes associated with narrative experiences? And how do issues of medium-specificity come into play in this same connection?

A third important issue is the difference this area of research might make when it comes to interpreting particular stories. The structuralists claimed that, just as the Saussurean linguist studies the system of language langue rather than the individual messages made possible and intelligible by that system parole , narratologists should study how narrative in general means, rather than what particular narratives mean. In the years since structuralism, however, convergent research developments across fields such as ethnography, sociolinguistics, and narrative analysis itself have revealed the importance of studying how people deploy various sorts of symbol systems to refer to, and constitute, aspects of their experience.

Thus, although Saussure emphasized code over message, a key question for future inquiry is how a focus on the mind-narrative nexus might illuminate the structure and functions of situated storytelling acts. Multiple issues are at stake in this connection, including the way in which story designs allow for tentative, defeasible ascriptions of authorial intention—ascriptions to story creators of the reasons for acting that probabilistically account for why a given text has the structure it does Herman et al.

Primary tabs View active tab Revisions. David Herman. Definition Approaches to narrative study that fall under the heading of cognitive narratology share a focus on the mental states, capacities, and dispositions that provide grounds for—or, conversely, are grounded in—narrative experiences. Explication Still an emergent trend within the broader domain of narratology, research on the mind-narrative nexus encompasses multiple methods of analysis and diverse corpora. Focal Areas for Research Approaches to narrative and mind continue to emerge, evolve, and cross-pollinate, and it is difficult to predict which of these approaches will be the most generative going forward, let alone what impact they will ultimately have on the broader field of narratology.

Topics for Further Investigation Since important contributions and refinements continue to be made to the focal areas for research listed in section 3. Bibliography Works Cited Abbott, H. Porter Abbott, H. Porter [] The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. Porter, ed. Alber, Jan Postclassical Narratologies: Approaches and Analyses. Columbus: Ohio State UP. Austin, Michael Lincoln: U of Nebraska P.

Bamberg, Michael, ed. Barthes, Roland [] Barthes, Roland [] ]. Bartlett, Frederick C. Boyd, Brian Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Bruner, Jerome Burke, Michael London: Routledge. Butte, George Chatman, Seymour Ithaca: Cornell UP. Cohn, Dorrit Princeton: Princeton UP. The Distinction of Fiction.

Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP. Culler, Jonathan Structuralist Poetics. Damasio, Antonio R. New York: Harcourt Brace. Dancygier, Barbara Dannenberg, Hilary P. Dissanayake, Ellen Heterocosmica: Fiction and Possible Worlds. Herman ed. Narratologies: New Perspectives on Narrative Analysis. Columbus: Ohio State UP, — Duchan, Judith F. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Eakin, Paul John Easterlin, Nancy Eder, Jens What Is Narratology? Questions and Answers Regarding the Status of a Theory. Berlin: de Gruyer, — Eder, Jens et al. Eder et al. Berlin: de Gruyter, 3— Emmott, Catherine Narrative Comprehension: A Discourse Perspective. Oxford: Oxford UP. Emmott, Catherine, Anthony J. Bernaerts et al. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 39— Fludernik, Monika Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method. Gerrig, Richard J. New Haven: Yale UP.

Berlin: de Gruyter, — Goffman, Erving Gorman, David Herman et al. Teaching Narrative Theory. New York: MLA, — Grishakova, Marina Herman, David Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1— Story Logic: Problems and Possibilities of Narrative. Narrative of a Child Analysis. Envy and Gratitude and Other Works The Therapeutic Alliance. Thinking, Feeling, and Being. The Psycho-analytical Process. Sexual States of Mind. The Kleinian Development. Explorations in Autism. The suppressed madness of sane men: Forty-four Years of Exploring Psychoanalysis.

Meltzer Ed. The Story of lnfant Development. Transference and Countertransference. Selected Contributions to Psycho-Analysis. Impasse and Interpretation. The Interpretation of Dreams in Clinical Work. Essays in Honour of Arnold Cooper. Narrative Truth and Historical Truth. The Interpersonal World of the Infant. Psychoanalytic Practice, Volume 1: Principles. Psychoanalytic Practice, Volume 2: Clinical Studies.

Lay Analysis: Life Inside the Controversy. The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment. Playing and Reality. Therapeutic Consultations in Child Psychiatry. Through Paediatrics to Psycho-Analysis. The Piggle. Holding and Interpretation. The Spontaneous Gesture. Stapley, MSc, Ph. Michael Moskowitz. Gerard Fromm Editor.

Obituaries W. Macaux, Ph. Stein, Ph. Importantly, a larger mechanism may comprise a number of individual mechanisms organized together; while the circulatory system is a mechanism responsible for blood circulation, its component mechanism, the heart, is also a mechanism, which is a proper part of the circulatory system. The goal of mechanistic modeling is to be able to conceptually recompose the mechanism from its component parts and operations.

Recomposing is only possible when the explanatory text is complete, that is, when it satisfies the completeness norm. This is not to say that mechanistic explanations are supposed to give every possible detail about the mechanism; no, only explanatorily relevant detail counts Baetu, ; Craver and Kaplan, Localization and decomposition are merely heuristics; they may fail without making mechanistic explanation impossible.

Fully decomposable systems are an extreme case, in which the sum is nothing more than its parts. As Bechtel and Richardson stress, it is much more likely that biological systems are near decomposable Bechtel and Richardson, , p. The notion of near decomposability was introduced by Herbert A.

Simon, who stressed that the behavior of near decomposable component systems in the short run is approximately independent from the behaviors of other systems, and in the long run, it depends only in an aggregate way on the behavior of the other components Simon, This is because mechanisms may include a highly complex organization of their internal component parts and operations. Such mechanisms, however, may be much more difficult to study and could require the use of specific mathematical techniques developed for research on complex systems.

In particular, the dynamic approach to cognition may stress systemic interactions in cognitive systems, but they need not exclude the possibility of providing dynamical and mechanical explanations. As many have argued Kaplan and Bechtel, ; Zednik, ; Kaplan, ; Lyre, , some phenomena require the use of mathematical methods typical of dynamical systems to build complete mechanistic causal explanations. Part-whole relationships and the causal structure of the mechanism are usually not sufficient to wholly explain the phenomenon at hand: the explanation must include crucial environmental modulation.

Only in some very special circumstances, where the whole dynamics of the phenomenon depends merely on the underlying mechanism, can one ignore the environmental modulation as Craver a does. In the case of scissors, one has to include fingers that are required to move the blades if one is to give a complete explanation of cutting.

However, fingers are not parts of scissors because they are not constitutively relevant to cutting. As Carl Craver has argued, a good criterion of what counts as a component x of a mechanism S is its constitutive relevance in the operation of S for example, cutting a piece of rope is an operation of scissors. A component x of S is constitutively relevant for S if and only if there is a relationship of mutual manipulability between x and S :.

Craver, b , p. In other words, mechanisms are not conceived as exclusively responsible for their phenomena. Mechanistic explanatory strategies have been nicely summarized by Bechtel in his metaphor of looking down, around and up:. Accounts of mechanistic explanation have emphasized the importance of looking down—decomposing a mechanism into its parts and operations.

When looking down is combined with looking around and up, mechanistic research results in an integrated, multi-level perspective Bechtel, , p. In fact, the accounts of explanation defended by new mechanists are already wide. Although it may seem that, to explain something mechanistically is to elucidate only its internal mechanism, it is not correct in cases where recomposition of the phenomenon requires additional explanatory factors.

Quite naturally, this happens in most biological and cognitive cases. For this reason, wide mechanistic explanations can be used by all researchers interested in the interaction of cognitive systems with their environments, as embedded cognition would have it. To add more explanatory depth to our toy example, one could inquire why the blades are made of metal rather than, say, paper or polypropylene.

In this case, the physical structure of blades has to be included in the explanation. The constitutive explanation bottoms out at the level that is considered sufficiently well understood to elucidate how a whole mechanism operates. In a certain sense, therefore, mechanistic constitutive explanations are reductionist Hensel, because they appeal to the internal causal structure of mechanisms to explain the phenomena at hand. However, they are not reductionist as they do not screen off complex interactions inside the mechanism and environmental modulations.

In other words, the whole mechanism is not replaced in a constitutive explanation by an appeal to general laws of constituents of the mechanism. Moreover, the level at which an explanation bottoms out is decided largely pragmatically by the research community. Thus, the new mechanistic approach is reductionist only to a moderate extent and in a very extended sense, in which any denial of the absolute autonomy of psychology from neuroscience or from social science counts as reductionism.

It is at the same time non-reductionist because it usually situates a given mechanism in a larger context Wright, In cognitive science, mechanistic explanations will therefore routinely involve interaction with the environment, cognitive performance as well as the neural underpinnings of this performance. Current cognitive science, in contrast to the evidential standards of the s or s, requires bottoming out at a level studied with neuroscientific methods Boone and Piccinini, ; right now, it is not required to cite molecular or cellular data but evidence about neural structures responsible for psychological function is normally expected to make a given explanation plausible.

The norms that govern where explanations bottom out are not, however, legislated a priori by philosophers in their armchairs, but are assumed as valid in research practices in various fields of inquiry, which may sometimes implicitly set their own differing standards. Note also that the detail added to bottom out the explanation has to be still explanatorily relevant; otherwise, it would violate the completeness norm. So, any detail that does not bring any further value has to be discarded.

The mechanistic approach is also natural in the study of relations between the physical body of an agent and its neural systems, which is the focus of embodied cognition. Although proponents of enactivism usually appeal to dynamical explanations but see also Abramova and Slors, , these explanations can be typically recast in mechanistic terms Zednik, In addition, distributed cognition can be easily framed in terms of mechanistic explanations; the cognitive systems composed of cognitive agents and artifacts can be naturally understood as mechanisms comprising component parts and operations on external representations.

In the next subsection, we describe distributed cognition as mechanistic more fully. The mechanistic approach can be illustrated with an example of a study about how the structure of the cockpit in an airplane supports complex, distributed cognitive processes. Edwin Hutchins studied in particular the use of physical devices to remember the speed of the aircraft:. The cockpit system remembers its speeds, and the memory process emerges from the activity of the pilots. The memory of the cockpit, however, is not made primarily of pilot memory.

A complete theory of individual human memory would not be sufficient to understand that which we wish to understand because so much of the memory function takes place outside the individual. In some sense, what the theory of individual human memory explains is not how this system works, but why this system must contain so many components that are functionally implicated in cockpit memory, yet are external to the pilots themselves Hutchins, b , p.

The process is distributed and includes two pilots as its component submechanisms, one responsible for flying and navigating the plane, and another responsible for communication and other tasks. But the distributed approach may well appeal to heuristics preferred by other wide approaches to the study of cognition see Figure 1.

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This can lead to the discovery of all sorts of crucial mechanisms. First, the embodied perspective will hypothesize that the design of control devices is adapted to sensorimotor characteristics of a human being, and may study the quality of design in terms of how easily it can be operated, for example, by seeing whether surfaces become slippery, buttons difficult to press and confusing, etc.

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The situated perspective will insist that the cognitive artifacts in the cockpit all constrain, and help to determine the plane weight, etc. Alternatively, the extended view may study how well the minds of individuals mesh with multiple devices on board. Lastly, the enactive perspective will stress the importance of dynamic coordination between pilots and consider how the environment is structured in terms of various affordances.

At the same time, the distributed approach does not screen off the study of representational devices; on the contrary, as Hutchins stresses:. This article presents a theoretical framework that takes a socio-technical system, rather than an individual mind, as its primary unit of analysis. This theory is explicitly cognitive in the sense that it is concerned with how information is represented and how representations are transformed and propagated through the system. Such a theory can provide a bridge between the information processing properties of individuals and the information processing properties of a larger system, such as an airplane cockpit Hutchins, b , pp.

This example shows how wide cognition, with its different theoretical component approaches that can cluster together, is poised to study phenomena related to cognitive processing. This suggests that specific wide perspectives are not particularly attractive in isolation. Instead, they can be further developed and integrated to form a larger mechanistic framework cf. Abramova and Slors, ; Wachowski, The mechanistic revolution in cognitive science is silent insofar as it need not involve any widespread theoretical controversies.

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Contra to an opinion made popular by Kuhn , a significant portion of the Scientific Revolution happened without much controversy Wootton, Mechanistic explanation, as the underlying methodological framework, is not universally accepted in psychology, or at least in philosophy of psychology Shapiro, ; Weiskopf, Most of the time, however, it goes unnoticed, just like references to mechanisms in papers and textbooks in cognitive science for example, see how frequently Gardner mentions biological, cognitive, psychological, and information-processing mechanisms.

We will show that in both of these cases, they can be understood as wide mechanistic explanations. They capture the essence of wide cognition. In this section, we describe mind-reading as a multi-faceted phenomenon.

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One of the ways to frame mind-reading is to understand it in terms of mindshaping Zawidzki, , which has both institutional and biological underpinnings. The proposed explanation is best understood, we claim, in mechanistic terms, and cannot be accounted for as exemplifying a merely an embodied, embedded, extended, enactive, or even distributed perspective on cognition. In philosophy, as well as in developmental and comparative psychology, social cognition has traditionally been understood in terms of mind-reading. There are two classic competing accounts of mind-reading: theory theory Perner, ; Gopnik and Meltzoff, and simulation theory Harris, ; Goldman, According to theory theory, mind-reading relies on a body of implicit knowledge, represented as general rules or underwritten by innate modular mechanisms.

In spite of this difference, the two competing accounts share one important feature: on these orthodox conceptions of human social cognition, differences in the sophistication of social interaction, e. However, this orthodox understanding of social cognition remains under considerable pressure. Zawidzki, It is widely recognized that propositional attitudes, like belief and desire, bear very tenuous relations to observable circumstances and behavior. For example, a belief that it is raining will issue in umbrella retrieval only when conjoined with a desire to stay dry that is stronger than competing desires, appropriate beliefs about the location of an umbrella and the relative costs of retrieving it, etc.

This feature of propositional attitudes raises significant problems for the orthodox conception of social cognition as being dependent on mind-reading, and especially for the widely held assumption that successful navigation of the social world requires attributing propositional attitudes. This is because it raises issues of computational tractability. Most successful social interactions take place seamlessly and dynamically at relatively short time scales. It seems unlikely that successful interpreters search the immense space of propositional attitude attributions compatible with brief, observed bouts of behavior, in time to arrive at attributions accurate enough to support successful interaction for a more detailed computational analysis, see Zeppi and Blokpoel, For this reason, a number of theorists have recently raised worries about the orthodox conception.

Only humans engage in constant and pervasive pedagogy. Only humans set up elaborate normative regimes, and linguistic, narrative constructs, and then pressure each other to conform to them. Such practices tend to make human populations easier to interpret. In addition, Zawidzki argues that the attribution of full-blown propositional attitudes evolved to play a justificatory, rather than a predictive, function.

That is, rather than help predict the behavior of potential interactants, attribution of full-blown propositional attitudes evolved as a tool for situating interactants in a normative space—as committed and entitled to various discursive and non-discursive moves, given prior such moves. Bruner points out that many everyday uses of propositional attitude attributions are triggered by behavior that deviates from a canonical cultural pattern, and function to excuse or at least make sense of the behavior, e.

There is some empirical evidence in favor of this hypothesis: Malle et al.

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Without such motivation, they are more likely to explain behavior in terms of causal history. Rather than tackle the seemingly computationally intractable task of predicting our con-specifics by building ever more complex, intracranial computational capacity, natural selection seems to have developed systematic means of structuring the social environment in ways that make it easier to predict using relatively simple intracranial resources. The variety of mind-shaping techniques employed by a given culture—over-imitation, pedagogy, norm construction and enforcement, the use of linguistic narrative, e.

If this hypothesis is on the right track, then it suggests that the study of culture and its effects on cognition must play a central role in the sciences of social cognition. What this hypothesis suggests, therefore, is that a wide array of factors—factors that go beyond properties of single individuals—have to be included in the explanation. But one cannot simply produce this explanation by referring merely to embodiment, embeddedness, cognitive extension or enaction, or even distributed cognition. These perspectives offer limited guidance for the case at hand.

Instead, the focus on cultural and social factors is much more salient. In fact, over the past 15 years there have been many new research programs exploring the impact of culture on the development of human cognitive structures. Areas of knowledge that deal with this subject are cross-cultural psychology, neuroanthropology and cultural neuroscience.

What unites the above-mentioned disciplines is the emphasis put on socio-cultural aspects of human cognitive abilities. This position is sometimes known as bio-cultural constructivism Baltes et al. The basic assumption is that the structure of the human brain is not programmed a priori , but rather is co-shaped by the environmental stimulation in a broad sense: the socio-cultural experience of the entity, its environment, etc. Generalizing, the process of ontogenetic development is stimulated genetically, environmentally and culturally.

Consequently, this leads to the abandonment of radical genetic, neuronal, cultural determinism, or environmentalism and highlights the simultaneous impact of all the above factors on human ontogeny and evolution. This, in turn, means that researchers produce explanatory texts that mention complex mechanisms, whose causal organization may lead to observed cognitive performance. At the same time, the mindshaping hypothesis is right now not fully developed in terms of a complete mechanistic explanation.

In particular, the entities and operations responsible for the cultural and social constraints on human behavior are not fully understood in terms of neurocognitive mechanisms. For this reason, this explanation remains highly schematic and so, according to the mechanistic view, requires further development. But this development clearly requires integrative efforts, which is what researchers studying mindreading usually presuppose. For example, it is most likely that separate mechanisms underlie the various forms of mindshaping, i.

These mechanisms may be, in turn, involved either in attributing unobservable entities such as beliefs, or in mere tracking relational properties of bouts of behavior. The mindshaping hypothesis suggests the latter may be the case for a number of them Fenici and Zawidzki, Decomposing the dense web of interrelationships between these mechanisms is also a difficult ongoing research task. In other words, just like most mechanistic explanations in life and cognitive sciences, this explanation is far from the ideal; nevertheless, mechanistic norms of completeness may drive further study of the phenomena in question.

From our point of view, it is crucial to stress that a wide perspective on mind-reading naturally fosters the development of mechanistic explanations. In this section, we show how the mechanistic view offers methodological advice and goes beyond idle debates over the role of the environment in emotional expression. Dominant theories of emotion tend to adopt an individualistic perspective. Whether modeled as evaluative judgments, appraisal processes, physiological states of bodily arousal, or something else, emotions are commonly thought of as private states individuated by their neurobiology, cognitive content, behavioral expression, or phenomenal character Damasio, ; Nussbaum, ; Prinz, ; Laird, ; Russell, ; Panksepp, From this perspective, the social and cultural environment is of secondary interest for understanding the inner i.

However, the mechanistic approach to explanation does not conform to this kind of individualism, even if bodily aspects of emotion are usually understood as individual. One can argue that the embodied character of emotions is a necessary condition on their being social. The embodied account of emotion claims that the brain alone is not sufficient to generate emotional experience. Rather, the rest of the non-neural body, in all its biological, physiological, morphological, and kinematic details, makes a non-trivial contribution to the realization of some emotions.

For example, many studies appear to indicate a reciprocal relation between an emotional experience and its behavioral expression. Subjects induced to adopt an emotion-specific facial expression or posture report experiencing the corresponding emotion Edelman, ; Duclos and Laird, ; Laird, ; Winkielman, ; Marzoli et al.

Conversely, inhibiting the expression e. Individuals who suffer severe spinal cord injuries and lose the capacity to behaviorally express emotions report less-intense feelings of high-arousal emotions like fear and anger Chwalisz et al. Still other studies have found that inhibited facial expressiveness—e. Embodied approaches to emotion thus emphasize the extent to which emotions depend upon extra-neural factors and feedback Winkielman et al. Moreover, if the physical expression of anger, say, is literally a part of the anger itself—that is, part of its physical realization—some emotions, in virtue of their embodied character, can be said to have a social face.

They are partially constituted by world-directed features perceptually available to other agents Krueger, But this embodied perspective remains a fairly conservative way of thinking about the social character of emotions because the environment does not enter into this characterization in any substantive manner. Accordingly, the role of the environment is seen not merely as providing stimulus inputs and serving as an arena for behavioral outputs. While not entirely jettisoning a consideration of internal mechanisms, a wide perspective on emotions thus argues that the larger bodily, social, and interactive context in which emotions are situated needs to be part of the target explanandum.

This also follows naturally from the mechanistic perspective, which provides no privileged explanatory position for the biological agent. For mechanists, the set of all and only causally relevant factors relevant to a given phenomenon counts as explanatorily relevant. To a large extent, proponents of embodied or extended accounts of emotion are not that radical in claiming that emotions cannot be understood exclusively as properties of individuals.

From the evolutionary point of view, the expression of emotion plays primarily a communicative role Darwin, , and to understand the causal structure of the communication process, one cannot limit the explanation to the agent that experiences one emotion. Moreover, because they play communicative roles across various species, there is a strong selection pressure to develop at least a limited number of universal expressions of emotions, a point widely appreciated nowadays Ekman, ; but see Barrett L. For example, it has been elaborated in experiments that look at multiple sources of feedback that may modulate the felt emotion itself.

Consider the work on audience effects, which indicates that emotional responses differ, depending on whether there is an audience or not. For example, ten-pin bowlers smile significantly more after producing a positive event e. A similar effect has been observed in Spanish soccer fans who issue authentic i.

Audience effects have even been observed in young infants Jones et al. Other work in developmental psychology demonstrates how the repertoire of physical strategies caregivers use to engage with infants—facial expressions, postural adjustments, exaggerated gestures and vocalizations, gaze manipulation, etc. This research supports the thesis that certain emotions depend crucially upon the ongoing i.

A mechanistic explanation of emotional phenomena need not deny the importance of the brain or individual mechanisms, and most emotions do not need to be actually perceived by some other agent to be felt. But it should avoid incomplete explanations, which by being excessively narrow in selecting causally relevant factors and abstracting emotions away from the broader bodily, social, and cultural contexts, violates an important mechanistic explanatory norm, namely completeness Craver, b.

The modulating effects of emotional expression and feedback, however, cannot support the radical view that emotion itself extends into the physical environment. One way to justify this point is to appeal to methodological principles of what counts the part of a given mechanism see Role of the Environment for Mechanisms above , which state that only what is constitutively relevant to the phenomenon to be explained is part of the mechanism.

Consider now the case of an Olympic medal winner. The environment, for example, seats on the Olympic stadium, would be constitutively relevant to the emotion as long as their removal would change the emotion, and if the change of the emotion of winners would influence the seats. This is definitely not the case; only the emotions felt by agents who perceive emotional expressions change. Moreover, a perception of the expressed emotion may trigger this or another emotion.

Further, the explanatory advantage of assuming the extended mind or extended emotion, over the embedded account thereof, is rather doubtful. Mechanistic criteria of constitutive relevance decide what is a component of a mechanism but not what a given mechanism is a mechanism of. This is up to a theorist.


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In such a case, not only do both the embedded and extended view appeal to the same causal networks, while insisting that the boundaries of what they consider to be emotional mechanisms are different. The debate based on oversimplification is thus idle; from the mechanistic point of view, both parties are wrong because the phenomena to be explained are not just emotions. Nevertheless, the mechanistic approach to explanation does not decide where the mind or emotion starts or ends. To sum up, in this section, we have argued that the wide perspective on emotions requires more conceptual clarity, and this is what the mechanistic approach offers.

It can resolve some conundrums by dissolving explanatorily idle debates. While further research on emotions as relying on non-individual factors is required by mechanistic norms of explanation, in particular to fully link social factors with mechanisms studied by affective neuroscience, the mechanistic approach aptly describes current integrative efforts in the study of emotion. In this section, we briefly review possible objections to the claim that there is an ongoing mechanistic revolution in wide approaches in cognitive neuro science. One way to argue against the claim that mechanisms underlie the ongoing scientific practice in cognitive neuro science, in particular inspired by wide perspectives, is to say that dynamical explanation is more frequently appealed to by its proponents.

Indeed, Menary , in proposing his framework of cognitive integration, which takes inspiration from the extended and situated perspectives, stresses the importance of dynamical explanation:. Although the framework is unified by a dynamical systems description of the evolution of processing in the hybrid and multi-layered system, it recognizes the novel contributions of the distinct processing profiles of the brain, body, and environment Menary, , p.

There are two possible lines of reply to this argument. The first one is to stress that mere dynamical explanations are actually explanatorily unsatisfactory Kaplan and Craver, In fact, dynamical explanation at its core relies on the received view of explanation, which requires appeal to universal laws Hempel and Oppenheim, , When a dynamical explanation is not equivalent to a mechanistic one, it is, according to Craver and Kaplan, simply deficient because it is open to well-known objections put forward against the received view cf.

Craver, b.


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Dynamical regularities referred to in cognitive explanations are usually not universal generalizations and remain invariant in an extremely limited number of contexts. Although one could in principle re-describe a mechanism by appealing to regularities, these regularities will be true of entities and activities whose organization is jointly responsible for a given phenomenon. It is extremely difficult to find dynamical explanations that do not appeal to causally organized systems; and this is what makes purported dynamical explanations equivalent to mechanistic explanations Walmsley, ; Zednik, Another but related reply is to stress the role of activities or processes, which makes dynamical explanations part and parcel of a particular kind of explanations, namely dynamical mechanistic explanations Bechtel, In other words, the mechanistic approach to explanation sometimes has to appeal to dynamical models, in particular when time-related phenomena are in question.

To wit, the proponent of dynamicism has the burden of proving that mechanistic explanations are somehow deficient. But this is extremely difficult. All successful dynamical explanations can be exploited for building mechanistic explanatory models, while rejecting dynamical attempts that violate mechanistic norms for example, they abstract away from the rich internal structure of mechanisms when it is causally relevant. By way of reply, the dynamicist could claim that these purported non-mechanical dynamical explanations are crucial in cognitive science by systematically reviewing the most significant empirical results achieved in the last 50 years and showing that they cannot be properly understood in either functionalist or mechanistic manner.

Still, until the dynamicist does this, both of the aforementioned responses are available to the mechanist. Opponents of mechanistic explanation may further object that mechanisms are not the sole focus of cognitive science; in particular, they may claim that functional explanations are genuinely explanatory Shapiro, However, one may counter that mere functional analyses are no longer accepted in cognitive science as satisfactory and are in fact treated as mere mechanism sketches, or essentially incomplete explanations Piccinini and Craver, Nonetheless, mechanistic explanations in cognitive science are in one respect close to the functional approach in that they deal with mechanisms that have biological or psychological functions Garson, , but in fact wide perspectives are incompatible with the autonomy of psychology presupposed by functional explanation traditionally understood.

Functional autonomy was sometimes spelled out in extreme terms and this extreme appeal to autonomy is what the mechanistic approach rejects. The causal organization of an agent cannot be duplicated in just any physical substrate. Similarly, scientists no longer accept abstract box-and-arrows diagrams as satisfactory explanations. One major difference between functionalist box-and-arrows diagrams and mechanistic explanations is that most defenders of functionalism required only that the posited functional organization be sufficient for the capacity to be present Newell and Simon, , p.

For example, according to defenders of sufficiency analysis, one could produce a computer simulation of translation that would behave similar as human translators, and such simulation would be explanatory. In the case of machine translation, statistical and neural-network methods might produce similar outputs but the first one is not even remotely biologically plausible Koehn, This is why abstract diagrams of systems sufficient to perform some activity are no longer considered explanatory in contemporary cognitive research.

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To prove this point, one can point out that the currently influential predictive processing account of cognition, which remains largely sketchy and devoid of detailed models of the causal dynamics of the nervous system, strives for mechanistic evidence Gordon et al. Were neuroscientific evidence not useful, the effort in producing it would be a symptom of irrationality among researchers, and defenders would not take pride in showing this kind of evidence.

Contrarily, it is exactly the fact that the evidence about entities and activities is required to substantiate functional analyses that makes it also a mechanistic sketch. These are current evidential standards in cognitive neuro science Boone and Piccinini, Second, as soon as one adopts an embodied and situated perspective, autonomy claims and functionalism cease to be attractive. As proponents of embodiment should be aware, autonomy claims were not successfully established by recourse to multiple realization, or the purported fact that some capacities may be realized by any system with the same functional organization but sufficiently different causal structure cf.

Aizawa and Gillett, ; Polger and Shapiro, It is simply much more natural to adopt a mechanistic perspective and to argue for embodiment than to adopt functionalism and argue for embodiment, even if many proponents of embodied cognition adopted a functionalist perspective Clark, a. If bodily features could be multiply realized by just any functional structure, are they actually bodily features? For example, it seems highly dubious that a computational simulation of a body might replace the physical bodily interaction in any biological agent without loss, and the stress on the role of the physical body is at the core of a strong embodiment thesis Dempsey and Shani, A related objection may be connected to the fairly abstract and sketchy nature of some proposed wide explanations.

For example, the notion of affordance, which has become popular among wide approaches, is usually introduced in terms of agent-environment interaction, without positing internal mechanisms at all. But cognitive neuroscientists do not consider it absurd to inquire into neurocognitive mechanisms of affordance perception; in fact, there is already some work consistent with a mechanistic approach Young, ; Cisek, In other words, it seems that the overarching assumption in cognitive science today is that one cannot simply point to mere functional analysis.

Mere functional analysis is essentially incomplete because it need not contain any relevant causal detail: sufficiency analysis may produce structures that have no causal relevance for the phenomenon, as in the case of traditional statistical machine translation, which is wildly disparate from how people translate even if its results may fairly coincide.

In some discussions about wide approaches to cognition, it is presupposed that they exclude representationalism or computationalism Barrett L. But things are perhaps not so simple.

Brain experience : neuroexperiential perspectives of brain-mind in SearchWorks catalog

While proponents of radical enactivism remain highly critical of the notion of mental content Hutto and Myin, , their criticism, from the methodological point of view, is mostly motivated by parsimony arguments. Other proponents of wide approaches, particularly in the case of the perceptual symbol systems, remain strongly motivated by representationalism Barsalou, ; many stress that wide approaches cannot and should not reject representationalism Schlosser, ; Wheeler, If wide approaches are understood as only offering generic heuristic advice, as we claim, then such approaches are not decisive when it comes to determining the status of computations or representations.

Nonetheless, wide approaches can lead us to be careful when positing such processes, which is exactly what mechanistic explanation requires, namely that we need additional causal evidence from lower levels of mechanistic organization in order to talk of computation and representation. Wide approaches to cognition cannot be applied to the study of cognition in isolation. Methodological and sometimes ideological controversies around embodiment and situatedness, for example, look outdated when we focus on current explanatory practice in cognitive science.

Researchers appeal to wide factors merely as discovery heuristics. In essence, the mechanistic turn that is beginning to pervade wide approaches in cognitive neuro science is the natural next step of the mechanistic revolution already prevalent in cognitive neuro science Boone and Piccinini, Wide perspectives on cognition, we claim, are fruitful when applied together in the practice of building mechanistic models, which can be further constrained, for example, by available psychopathological, neurophysiological, psychophysiological, or psychological evidence.

Taken in isolation, they offer very little theoretical advice. A wide mechanistic perspective should not deny the significance of the brain or individual mechanisms, or it will prematurely advise against testing hypotheses about potentially relevant causal factors. If cognition is not only the result of individual innate cognitive processes but also of culturally-afforded competence acquired by individuals and groups alike, it is only natural to assume that mechanistic explanations will include a fair number of wide causal factors.

Wide cognition is therefore not a grand theory of everything that could supply all possible detailed hypotheses about cognitive phenomena. Instead, it merely helps reject self-imposed and unnecessary restrictions in the study of their mechanisms. We claim that the silent mechanistic revolution ongoing in cognitive neuro science helps to bring the insights from these wide perspectives together by showing their role as research heuristics.

Reading Minds: A Guide to the Cognitive Neuroscience Revolution Reading Minds: A Guide to the Cognitive Neuroscience Revolution
Reading Minds: A Guide to the Cognitive Neuroscience Revolution Reading Minds: A Guide to the Cognitive Neuroscience Revolution
Reading Minds: A Guide to the Cognitive Neuroscience Revolution Reading Minds: A Guide to the Cognitive Neuroscience Revolution
Reading Minds: A Guide to the Cognitive Neuroscience Revolution Reading Minds: A Guide to the Cognitive Neuroscience Revolution
Reading Minds: A Guide to the Cognitive Neuroscience Revolution Reading Minds: A Guide to the Cognitive Neuroscience Revolution
Reading Minds: A Guide to the Cognitive Neuroscience Revolution Reading Minds: A Guide to the Cognitive Neuroscience Revolution
Reading Minds: A Guide to the Cognitive Neuroscience Revolution Reading Minds: A Guide to the Cognitive Neuroscience Revolution

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