Mind-Reading Brains

Sarah Vincent authored the chapter entitled, “A Comparative Perspective from the 4-E Approach.”


Much of the way we have come to think about cognition is informed by Cartesian dualism and its emphasis on the mind and brain relationship – in contrast to considering cognition as involving the biological organism as a whole. This tendency to think about cognition as isolated in the brain continues in contemporary theory of mind approaches that generally require the ability to make mental attributions to others either via inferences from folk psychology or via simulation. But there are numerous problems with adopting these models of social cognition. In contrast, we should consider the 4-E approach – that the mind is enactive (facilitating action via both practice and social affordances), embedded (in a particular environment), extended (such that we rely on the use of tools outside of our own brains or bodies to perform equivalent or complementary cognitive functions), and embodied (acknowledging that the individual’s body shapes the way in which her mind perceives and understands the world). Here, I argue that by adopting the 4-E model of the mind and considering the more broadly biological foundations of cognition (i.e., outside of the brain), we can challenge paradigmatic views of human and nonhuman social cognition.

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