LINGUIST List 20.2243|
Fri Jun 19 2009
Review: Cognitive Science: Zlatev, Racine, Sinha & Itkone (2008)
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The Shared Mind
Message 1: The Shared Mind
From: Seth Knox <sknoxadrian.edu>
Subject: The Shared Mind
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EDITORS: Zlatev, Jordan; Racine, Timothy P., Sinha, Chris; Itkone, Esa
TITLE: The Shared Mind
SUBTITLE: Perspectives on Intersubjectivity
SERIES: Converging Evidence in Language and Communication Research 12
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
Seth Knox, Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, Adrian College (Adrian, MI)
This volume challenges dominant Theory Theory approaches to cognition and
communication (Simulation Theory and Theory of Mind) and argues that
intersubjective approaches better account for joint action and the emergence of
shared public language. Intersubjectivity is defined by the editors as ''the
sharing of experiential content (e.g., feelings, perceptions, thoughts, and
linguistic meanings) among a plurality of subjects'' (1). The volume grew out of
the 2005 meeting of the Jean Piaget Society and two later symposia on
intersubjectivity; it consists of 15 chapters contributed by researchers in
psychology, philosophy, primatology, and linguistics. The chapters are divided
into three parts treating infant and child development, the evolution of
experience sharing, and the intersubjective nature of the language system. Not
surprisingly, these interdisciplinary contributions diverge in their theoretical
and methodological stances. All are unified, however, by the question of how it
is possible that we are aware of subjectivity in our fellow human beings.
Colwyn Trevarthen's foreword criticizes Theory Theory models in strong terms,
referring to them as ''a prison built of ideas that are unaware and unsympathetic
of how we really live'' (viii). Trevarthen's theory of Innate Intersubjectivity
provides a theoretical foundation for the papers presented in this volume.
Trevarthen is most critical of the opacity of other minds in Theory Theory
models, preferring instead the immediate and transparent access to other minds
proposed by intersubjective models.
In their introductory first chapter, the volume's editors challenge the stark
separation between self and other(s) presumed in Theory of Mind approaches. They
assert that the understanding of other minds is best explained through
intersubjectivity, which allows for the immediate sharing of experiences through
embodied interaction. The philosophical underpinnings of intersubjectivity are
attributed to Husserl, Vygotsky, and Wittgenstein. The introduction summarizes
the chapters that follow, all of which are united in the conviction that
consciousness of self and other is best understood in terms of a social, rather
than individual, mind.
Part I: ''Development''
In their chapter ''Understanding others through primary interaction and narrative
practice,'' Shaun Gallagher and Daniel D. Hutto directly challenge the ability of
Theory Theories to account adequately for everyday folk psychology and
intersubjective engagement. For understanding the interactional abilities of
infants nearing their first year of life, they argue that mirror neuron research
supports a theoretical framework that acknowledges pragmatic context and
incorporates Colwyn Trevarthen's work on primary and secondary
intersubjectivity. The authors then claim that the more complex intersubjective
lives of older children, adolescents, and adults are best understood through the
Narrative Practice Hypothesis. Narrative competency differs critically from
Theory of Mind abilities in that the embodied actions of agents are understood
in terms of reasons (learned through exposure to and the practice of narrative)
rather than beliefs (which requires the attribution or simulation of mental states).
In the chapter ''The neuroscience of social understanding,'' John Barresi and
Chris Moore assess their Intentional Relations Theory (1996) in the context of
recent research on mirror neuron networks in humans and non-human primates.
Intentional Relations Theory proposes that when older children and adults
observe an agent's actions, first- and third-person information is initially
processed separately but then matched to produce representations of the agent's
intentions. The sharing of psychological states that results between agents
enables social understanding and representations of others' minds. The authors
assert that Intentional Relations Theory better accounts for everyday Theory of
Mind abilities than Theory Theory (at least for non-autistic persons).
''Engaging, sharing, knowing: Some lessons from research in autism'' by Peter
Hobson and Jessica A. Hobson draws upon three studies of autism to counter
pervasive skepticism of intersubjectivity in the scientific community.
Scientific objection is especially focused on attempts to measure an
intersubjective dimension in human interactions, since intersubjectivity is
difficult to define in a way that is useful for objective measurement. The three
studies of autism (each of which is co-authored by at least one of the chapter
authors) serve as case studies to demonstrate the high level of agreement
amongst raters evaluating levels of interpersonal engagement between an
experimenter and autistic subject in videotaped sessions. Interrater agreement
is high in these studies (as well as in diagnostic approaches to evaluating
autism in general), despite the difficulty in defining interpersonal
coordination and intersubjectivity. The authors further claim that evaluations
of intersubjectivity are not only necessary in diagnostic schedules, but also in
advancing effective treatments of autism.
In ''Coming to agreement: Object use by infants and adults,'' Cintia Rodriguez and
Christiane Moro critique the ''naturalistic view of the object'' (in which
physical objects exist in a transparent and unmediated way for young children)
and instead propose that children come to understand objects in complex social
and pragmatic contexts, i.e., as with language, children arrive at the meaning
of objects through their social use. Five observations of children, ranging in
age from two to twelve months, and a parent in a situation of triadic
interaction (involving the use of a toy consisting of six rings and a support)
are called upon to illustrate how infants come to understand meanings of objects
through shared use and joint action. The authors contend that this calls into
question the dichotomy of the opacity of the social world and the transparency
of the physical world assumed in Theory of Mind approaches, as well as the view
of infants as reactive (rather than active) beings in their environment.
''The role of intersubjectivity in the development of intentional communication''
by Ingar Brinck seeks to identify how intersubjectivity effects the early
development of intentional communication and the emergence of nonverbal
reference by the child's second year. Brinck argues that the infant's developing
awareness of communication and social interaction is assisted by
interaffectivity and interattentionality. The gradual merger of interaffectivity
and interattentionality with interintentionality allows for the
decontextualization of communicative behavior (extending behaviors from specific
to new and general contexts) near the end of the first year of life. The
developmental model of intentional communication outlined by Brinck is
distinguished by its continuous, variable and non-linear nature (notably absent
is a rigid chronology of distinct developmental stages).
The question of whether intersubjectivity is fundamentally descriptive or
explanatory is taken up in ''Sharing mental states: Causal and definitional
issues in intersubjectivity'' by Noah Susswein and Timothy P. Racine. Does
intersubjectivity describe a form of early social understanding of shared
experience, or does it explain how infants engage in such understanding? The
authors argue that intersubjectivity is ultimately a taxonomic concept, a
category of skills and behaviors rather than a cause of behaviors. This chapter
highlights a neglected distinction between causal and the definitional concepts
in developmental research on intersubjectivity.
Part II: ''Evolution''
The evolutionary relationship between the communicative gestures of human beings
and chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, and orangutans is explored in the chapter
''What is the nature of the gestural communication of great apes?'' by Simone
Pika. As the author is interested in the evolution of intersubjectivity, the
focus is on gestures that can be identified as intentional acts. To determine
this, gestures are analyzed in light of means-ends dissociation (the use of the
same gesture in pursuit of different goals, or the use of multiple gestures in
pursuit of a single goal) and adjustment to audience effects (variability of
gestural use correlated with the degree of visual attention offered by the
recipient of the gesture). An examination of research on referential gesturing
in these non-human primates also shows that their gestures are primarily dyadic
(attention shared between two individuals; however, triadic gestures are
occasionally used to draw another's attention to food) and imperative. Thus at
least some cognitive abilities associated with intersubjectivity exist in these
primates. In comparison, the gestural behavior of prelinguistic and
just-linguistic children is distinctive in the considerably greater use of
triadic and declarative gesturing. This divide between the great apes and human
children evokes compelling questions about the possible evolution of human
intersubjectivity and language from dyadic and imperative gesturing.
''The heterochronic origins of explicit reference'' by David A. Leavens, William
D. Hopkins and Kim A. Bard examines the intriguing fact that captive chimpanzees
(and other apes) point (a gesture that explicitly references an object for
shared attention between the ape and another individual) in the absence of overt
training, whereas apes in the wild point extremely rarely. Further, the authors
found in their observations of captive apes that when the apes engaged in
triadic gesturing (unreachable food was the object referenced for shared
attention), they also engaged in gaze alteration, thus monitoring the visual
attention of social partners just as human infants do in triadic contexts.
Environmental variables seem to be the only way to account for these behavioral
differences between wild and captive apes. The critical environmental variable
proposed by the authors is the Referential Problem Space. While chimpanzees
achieve independent quadrapedal motion around the fifth month of life,
independent motion for human infants arrives considerably later (due not only to
physical limitations, but also to the fact that adult caretakers typically limit
their motion for their own safety). By the time that infants begin pointing to
out-of-reach objects, young apes are moving about freely. Captivity artificially
creates the Referential Problem Space of human infants for young apes that must
then adapt to relying on caregivers to obtain unreachable objects for them. The
authors conclude that there is no human-specific cognitive adaptation for
non-verbal explicit referencing.
''The co-evolution of intersubjectivity and bodily mimesis'' by Jordan Zlatev
seeks to address the question of whether language is prerequisite for
intersubjectivity, or are intersubjective abilities necessary for learning to
use language? To answer this question, the author focuses on the close link
between intersubjectivity and bodily mimesis, defined as ''the use of the body
for communicative and representational purposes'' (215). Five stages are proposed
for the development of intersubjectivity: proto-mimesis, dyadic mimesis, triadic
mimesis, post-mimesis1 (protolanguage), and post-mimesis2 (language). Drawing,
like the previous two chapters, on evidence from observations of wild and
captive apes compared to observations of infants and young children, the author
concludes that the first two stages of intersubjectivity occur in both humans
and non-human primates, and the third stage may be reached (to some extent) by
captive apes. Thus the first three stages are understood to lay a foundation for
the development of human language. Complicating the chicken-and-egg nature of
the initial question, however, is evidence that human language paves the way for
fourth- and fifth-stage intersubjective abilities.
''First communions: Mimetic sharing without theory of mind'' by Daniel D. Hutto
challenges the position that Theory of Mind abilities were a necessary condition
of tool-making, social cohesion, and language learning in our early hominid
ancestors. In its place, Hutto proposes the Mimetic Ability Hypothesis. This
hypothesis posits that an increase in ''recreative imagination'' and mimetic
abilities, in the absence of language (and Theory of Mind modules), is
sufficient to account for the complex social lives and technical skills of early
hominids up through Homo erectus. This initial proposal of the Mimetic Ability
Hypothesis seeks to weaken the claim of inheritance of Theory of Mind modules
from hominid ancestors by way of offering a plausible and simpler explanation of
the available evidence.
Part III: ''Language''
''The central role of normativity in language and linguistics'' by Esa Itkonen
asserts that language is fundamentally normative and social (speakers share
common knowledge that makes language possible) in contrast to the dominant
position in theoretical linguistics that language is fundamentally psychological
(a collection of cognitive capacities in the individual). Although it is easy to
see this view reflected in pragmatics, Itkonen argues that it is also necessary
condition (if not always obvious) of semantics, for in semantics ''any sentence
encodes a 'frozen action', and it is the task of pragmatics to 'melt' it'' (284).
In contrast to the natural sciences that examine non-normative objects (those
that exist independently of social agreement), linguistics has normative and
intersubjective objects of study that cannot be reduced to non-normative data.
The author attributes resistance to a normative view of linguistic data in
theoretical linguistics to two primary (but not the only) causes--''intellectual
laziness'' and a desire to emulate the study of non-normative data in the natural
Arie Verhagen elucidates the topos-dependent argumentative orientation of
language in his chapter ''Intersubjectivity and the architecture of the language
system.'' The author cites Anscombre and Ducrot (1989) in the paper's employment
of the term ''argumentativity'', which means that the communicative activity of
any speaker or writer is ''an attempt to influence someone else's thoughts,
attitudes, and sometimes immediate behavior'' (311). The usage of ''topos'' is also
shared with the work of Anscombre and Ducrot, and refers to the idea that ''every
utterance is taken as orienting the addressee towards certain conclusions _by
invoking some mutually shared model_ in which the object of conceptualization
figures'' (315, emphasis in the original). It is proposed that evidence for
argumentivity in language can be recovered from grammar, and this paper
specifically examines two argumentative scales of discourse operators:
argumentative orientation and argumentative strength. Argumentative orientation
refers to whether an operator orients an addressee towards a positive or
negative evaluation of a statement, and argumentative strength refers to the
assertive strength of the operator from minimal (indicating considerable
qualification) to maximal (no qualification, e.g. unqualified negation). This
view challenges the notion of human language as a primarily referential or
informative system; rather, it is inherently intersubjective and used to
manipulate the mental states and (potentially) behaviors of others.
The problematic position of the interpreter between two interlocutors who do not
share the same language is explored in ''Intersubjectivity in interpreted
interactions: The interpreter's role in co-constructing meaning'' by Terry Janzen
and Barbara Shaffer. The authors examine the practice of interpreting for deaf
users of American Sign Language and hearing interlocutors, and they focus
specifically on the controversial practice of expansion, which derives from the
notion that American Sign Language (as practiced by native signers) requires
significantly more explicit background information than spoken English. Seven
expansions are cited from Lawrence (1995): ''contrasting, faceting, reiteration,
utilizing 3D space, explaining by examples, couching or nesting, and describe
then do'' (Janzen and Schaffer 336). An example of expansions in medical
translation demonstrates the risks involved in ''contextualizing''
(interpreter-supplied background information not present in the original
message). The authors conclude that although the stance of the interpreter
cannot be neutral, expansions and similar practices may significantly alter the
original text to be interpreted and thus stand as an obstacle to the
intersubjective sharing between interlocutors relying on the interpreter.
The chapter ''Language and the signifying object: From convention to imagination''
by Chris Sinha and Cintia Rodriguez proposes that shared representational
content, or common knowledge, arises from intersubjective activity (as opposed
to the view that intersubjectivity is based on or is equivalent to common
knowledge). Of particular interest to the authors is interobjectivity, which
they consider inherent in joint action. They claim that the child's encounter
and interaction with objects that are socially defined through use (and may
possess multiple layers of normative use) is a form of narrative practice that
enables the formation of cultural identity and intersubjective experience.
In cognitive psychology the problem of our understanding of other minds
(especially as it relates to symptoms of autism) has been addressed
predominately through the Theory of Mind approach (e.g. Baron-Cohen 1995).
Theory of Mind has also been embraced recently by scholars working in the
interdisciplinary realm of cognitive literary studies (e.g. Zunshine 2006).
Although an evolved Theory of Mind Module (or mechanism) has been questioned
before (e.g. Wahi and Johri 1994), this book is notable for compiling a
multifaceted critique of Theory of Mind approaches while simultaneously
advocating an alternative direction in the study of social cognition. The
developmental papers present evidence of immediate, embodied intersubjective
engagement in children prior to the age of four (and prior to the emergence of
Theory of Mind skills), and this deserves serious consideration and response by
advocates of Theory of Mind approaches. The chapters of the final sections build
a strong case for increasingly social approaches to communication as well as
language acquisition and development. It is my opinion that the articles on the
evolution of subjectivity are particularly strong. Most notable are the papers
by Pika (''What is the nature of the gestural communication of great apes'') and
Leavens, Hopkins, and Bard (''The heterochronic origins of explicit reference''),
and their implications for the evolution of language in humans, including
environmental pressures that encourage explicit reference in our own
environment, are of special interest to linguists.
Yet does intersubjectivity, as Trevarthen asserts in his foreword, seem to be
''the best game in town'' (xi)? In many ways intersubjectivity does promise
considerable explanatory power, especially concerning infant-parent interaction
and language acquisition. It is far from clear, however, that intersubjectivity
can convincingly account for all understandings of self and other. Gallagher and
Hutto are careful not to dismiss Theory Theory approaches altogether; in fact,
they note that ''in puzzling cases of another person's behaviour, we may in fact
explicitly appeal to theory or employ simulation. The claim here is simply that
most of our everyday interactions are not of this sort. Puzzling cases are the
exception'' (20 n.1). But are puzzling cases truly the exception? Are deceptive,
ideological, manipulative, and propagandistic discourses really so rare? Or are
they a significant part of our ''everyday interactions'' when navigating workplace
politics, processing political commentary, or enjoying dramatic entertainment
(consider, especially, televised crime dramas). The existence of ''puzzling
cases,'' even if fairly common, is not evidence against intersubjectivity. It is
questionable, however, whether intersubjective approaches can account for the
puzzling cases (which I suggest are considerably more common than is
acknowledged in this book) better than Theory of Mind approaches.
Anscombre, J.-C. and Ducrot, O. 1989. ''Argumentativity and informativity.'' In
_From Metaphysics to Rhetoric_, M. Meyer (ed.), 71-87. Dordrecht: Kluwer
Baron-Cohen, S. 1995. _Mindblindness: An Essay on Autism and Theory of Mind_.
Cambridge: MIT Press.
Barresi, J. and Moore, C. 1996. ''Intentional relations and social
understanding.'' _Behavioral and Brain Sciences_ 19: 107-154.
Lawrence, S. 1995. ''Interpreter discourse: English to ASL expansions.'' In
_Mapping our Course: A Collaborative Venture, Proceedings of the Tenth National
Convention, Conference of Interpreter Trainers_, E.A. Winston (ed.), 205-214.
US: Conference of Interpreter Trainers.
Wahi, S. and Johri, R. 1994. ''Questioning a universal theory of mind:
Mental-real distinctions made by Indian children.'' _The Journal of Genetic
Psychology_ 155(4): 503-510.
Zunshine, L. 2006. _Why We Read Fiction: Theory of Mind and the Novel_.
Columbus: Ohio State UP.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Seth Knox is Assistant Professor of German in the Department of Modern Languages
& Cultures at Adrian College in Adrian, Michigan. His academic interests lie
primarily in cognitive and applied linguistics, and his research focus is
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