Quinean social skills

Empirical evidence from eye-gaze against information encapsulation

Mitch Parsell*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    1 Citation (Scopus)


    Since social skills are highly significant to the evolutionary success of humans, we should expect these skills to be efficient and reliable. For many Evolutionary Psychologists efficiency entails encapsulation: the only way to get an efficient system is via information encapsulation. But encapsulation reduces reliability in opaque epistemic domains. And the social domain is darkly opaque: People lie and cheat, and deliberately hide their intentions and deceptions. Modest modularity [Currie and Sterelny (2000) Philos Q 50:145-160] attempts to combine efficiency and reliability. Reliability is obtained by placing social skills in un-encapsulated central cognition; efficiency by having the social system sensitive to encapsulated socially tagged cues. In this paper, I argue that this approach fails. I focus on eye-gaze as a plausible example of a socially significant encapsulated cue. I demonstrate contra modest modularity that eye-gaze is subject to influence from central cognition.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-19
    Number of pages19
    JournalBiology and Philosophy
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2009

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