Logic and social cognition the facts matter, and so do computational models

Journal of Philosophical Logic 38 (6):649-680 (2009)


This article takes off from Johan van Benthem’s ruminations on the interface between logic and cognitive science in his position paper “Logic and reasoning: Do the facts matter?”. When trying to answer Van Benthem’s question whether logic can be fruitfully combined with psychological experiments, this article focuses on a specific domain of reasoning, namely higher-order social cognition, including attributions such as “Bob knows that Alice knows that he wrote a novel under pseudonym”. For intelligent interaction, it is important that the participants recursively model the mental states of other agents. Otherwise, an international negotiation may fail, even when it has potential for a win-win solution, and in a time-critical rescue mission, a software agent may depend on a teammate’s action that never materializes. First a survey is presented of past and current research on higher-order social cognition, from the various viewpoints of logic, artificial intelligence, and psychology. Do people actually reason about each other’s knowledge in the way proscribed by epistemic logic? And if not, how can logic and cognitive science productively work together to construct more realistic models of human reasoning about other minds? The paper ends with a delineation of possible avenues for future research, aiming to provide a better understanding of higher-order social reasoning. The methodology is based on a combination of experimental research, logic, computational cognitive models, and agent-based evolutionary models. Keywords Epistemic logic - Cognitive science - Intelligent interaction - Cognitive modeling

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