Developmental phenomenology: examples from social cognition


We explore relationships between phenomenology and developmental psychology through an in-depth analysis of a particular problem in social cognition: the most fundamental access to other minds. In the first part of the paper, we examine how developmental science can benefit phenomenology. We explicate the connection between cognitive psychology and developmental phenomenology as a form of constructive phenomenological psychology. Nativism in contemporary science constitutes a strong impulse to conceive of the possibility of an innate ability to perceive others’ mental states, an idea which also has a transcendental implication. In the second part, we consider how phenomenology can contribute to developmental science. Phenomenology can go beyond the necessary evaluation and reinterpretation of experimental results. Some phenomenological notions and theories can be put forward on a par with alternative cognitive-psychological models and compete with them on grounds of empirical adequacy. For example, Husserl and Merleau-Ponty’s notion of pairing can constitute a viable account of how infants access other minds. We outline a number of ways in which this account can be tested and can thus contribute to generating empirical knowledge.

Publication Title

Continental Philosophy Review