Action-based versus cognitivist perspectives on socio-cognitive development: culture, language and social experience within the two paradigms

Synthese 197 (12):5511-5537 (2020)
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Abstract

Contemporary research on mindreading or theory of mind has resulted in three major findings: There is a difference in the age of passing of the elicited-response false belief task and its spontaneous–response version; 15-month-olds pass the latter while the former is passed only by 4-year-olds. Linguistic and social factors influence the development of the ability to mindread in many ways. There are cultures with folk psychologies significantly different from the Western one, and children from such cultures tend to show different timetables of mindreading development. The traditional accounts of the data are nativism, rational constructivism, and two-systems theory. In this paper, we offer criticism of these traditional cognitivist accounts and explore an alternative, action-based framework. We argue that even though they all seem to explain the above empirical data, there are other, theoretical reasons why their explanations are untenable. Specifically, we discuss the problem of foundationalism and the related problem of innateness. Finally, we explore an alternative, action-based framework that avoids these theoretical limitations and offer an interpretation of the empirical data from that perspective.

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