Social cognition in simple action coordination: A case for direct perception


In this paper we sketch the outlines of an account of the kind of social cognition involved in simple action coordination that is based on direct social perception (DSP) rather than recursive mindreading. While we recognize the viability of a mindreading-based account such as e.g. Michael Tomasello’s, we present an alternative DSP account that (i) explains simple action coordination in a less cognitively demanding manner, (ii) is better able to explain flexibility and strategy-switching in coordination and crucially (iii) allows for formal modeling. This account of action coordination is based on the notion of an agent’s field of affordances. Coordination ensues, we argue, when, given a shared intention, the actions of and/or affordances for one agent shape the field of affordances for another agent. This a form of social perception since in particular perceiving affordances for another person involves seeing that person as an agent. It is a form of social perception since it involves perceiving affordances for another person and registering how another person’s actions influence one’s own perceived field of affordances.

Consciousness and Cognition