Mindreading as social expertise

John Michael*, Wayne Christensen, Søren Overgaard

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    23 Citations (Scopus)


    In recent years, a number of approaches to social cognition research have emerged that highlight the importance of embodied interaction for social cognition (Reddy, How infants know minds, 2008; Gallagher, J Conscious Stud 8:83-108, 2001; Fuchs and Jaegher, Phenom Cogn Sci 8:465-486, 2009; Hutto, in Seemans (ed.) Joint attention: new developments in psychology, philosophy of mind and social neuroscience, 2012). Proponents of such 'interactionist' approaches emphasize the importance of embodied responses that are engaged in online social interaction, and which, according to interactionists, present an alternative to mindreading as a source of social understanding. We agree that it is important to take embodied interaction seriously, but do not agree that this presents a fundamental challenge to mainstream mindreading approaches. Drawing upon an analogy between embodied interaction and the exercise of expert skills, we advocate a hierarchical view which claims that embodied social responses generally operate in close conjunction with higher-level cognitive processes that play a coordinative role, and which are often sensitive to mental states. Thus, investigation of embodied responses should inform rather than conflict with research on mindreading.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)817-840
    Number of pages24
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014


    • Enactivism
    • Expertise
    • Interactionism
    • Mindreading
    • Social cognition
    • Social interaction


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