The new hybrids: Continuing debates on social perception


I evaluate several attempts to integrate standard theories of social cognition, either theory theory or simulation theory, with aspects of interaction theory, and especially with the concept of direct social perception. I refer to these as new hybrid theories of social cognition. One of the new hybrids accomplishes the integration only by weakening the concept of mindreading or by understanding mindreading as targeting the shared situation rather than the other's mental states. Hybrids that attempt to accommodate the idea of direct perception of mental states grant a phenomenological directness only by maintaining tacit (theory-based) inferences on the subpersonal level. If such inferential processes are thought to be extra-perceptual, then perception is neither sufficient nor direct for an understanding of intentions and emotions. Moreover, insistence on top-down inferential processes trades off against the possibility of plasticity in the perceptual system itself. I suggest that a better model than a hybrid theory would be a pluralist one. A pluralist approach to social cognition would treat theoretical inference, simulation, direct perception, interactive skills, etc. as different strategies. The real challenge is to work out a pluralist account of subpersonal processes.

Publication Title

Consciousness and Cognition