Human Social Cognition

From P2P Foundation
Jump to navigation Jump to search


=Shared vs Collective Intentionality

Camilla Power:

"Tomasello and Rakoczy (2003) adapt Searle’s framework of collective intentionality in proposing two main ontogenetic steps in human social cognition. The crucial initial step begins around 9–12 months old when a child understands others as intentional agents, beginning with gaze following and sharing attention to external objects or events. From this point on children apprehend goal-directed behaviours, and start to coordinate with and communicate shared intentions, expecting adults to ‘tune in’ to them. This is the springboard enabling children to start creatively using cultural artifacts and linguistic symbols. The second step, coming at three to four years, entails understanding of others as mental agents who may have differing and false thoughts and beliefs, full-scale belief-desire psychology sometimes known as ‘theory of mind’. But Tomasello and Rakoczy (2003, p.124) maintain that it is the nine-month ‘revolution’ that is the ‘real thing’ in that it already concerns fully mental states and has all the seeds of the later emerging stage. It is stepping into the social space of ‘we intend’ that changes everything, enabling the child to participate in and practice fully human cultural cognition. Several years follow of exercising joint attentional activity including ‘sharedness’ involving self-other equivalence; perspective-shifting; and apprehension of normativity, with some ability to reflect on that. In contrasting ‘shared intentionality’ at the earlier stage to ‘collective intentionality’ emergent at the second, Tomasello and Rakoczy(2003, p. 133, fn5) modify Searle (1995) who distinguishes collective intentionality broadly speaking entailing social facts, from collective intentionality involving constitutive rules establishing institutional facts. But in trying to define what exactly is missing in the earlier stage that develops subsequently, Tomasello and Rakoczy (2003, pp.133–134) admit there is no clear difference in kind between shared and collective intentions.

Understanding false beliefs entails a grasp of objective reality, subjective and intersubjective perspectives all at once, which elude a child before four years. But in gaining this ‘view from nowhere’, the child is engaging with a progressively bigger and bigger ‘we’ who intend up to the point the entire cultural community to which the child belongs is included, with cognisance of norms and beliefs belonging to that community. The ability to share intentions leads to novel development in children around two — the phase known as ‘pretend play’ — when status may be assigned to objects symbolically and imaginatively rather than only in practical or functional ways. In the first year following the ‘revolution’, a child can engage via imitation in the shared intention ‘this is the way we use X’, allowing some understanding of norms as in ‘you’re not using it properly’. From 24 months, a child may play-fully begin to use objects in the ‘wrong’ way, for instance pretending to use a pencil as a toothbrush. In sharing this intention she will look to an adult to join the ‘game’ of assigning a new, temporary function to the pencil. The pencil then is socially constituted as a toothbrush(Tomasello and Rakoczy 2003, p. 131). Because the function does not rest in physical features, it is assigned purely by agreement, the collective intention of those engaged in the game. Alongside pretend play with objects will arise ability to play with words, deliberately mis-naming things as a joke which adults are expected to enter into. In playing with the conventional uses of words or objects, and deliberately breaking them, the child clearly shows understanding of and reflection on the norms entailed in shared intentional uses (2003, pp.128–129).The major achievement of the Leipzig Max Planck Institute study programme of Tomasello, Hare, Call, Rakoczy and colleagues hasbeen to reveal the stark differences between young children and chimpanzees in their attitude to cooperation."