Enactive intersubjectivity

participatory sense-making and mutual incorporation

Thomas Fuchs, Hanne de Jaegher

pp. 465-486

Current theories of social cognition are mainly based on a representationalist view. Moreover, they focus on a rather sophisticated and limited aspect of understanding others, i.e. on how we predict and explain others' behaviours through representing their mental states. Research into the "social brain' has also favoured a third-person paradigm of social cognition as a passive observation of others' behaviour, attributing it to an inferential, simulative or projective process in the individual brain. In this paper, we present a concept of social understanding as an ongoing, dynamical process of participatory sense-making and mutual incorporation. This process may be described (1) from a dynamical agentive systems point of view as an interaction and coordination of two embodied agents; (2) from a phenomenological approach as a mutual incorporation, i.e. a process in which the lived bodies of both participants extend and form a common intercorporality. Intersubjectivity, it is argued, is not a solitary task of deciphering or simulating the movements of others but means entering a process of embodied interaction and generating common meaning through it. This approach will be further illustrated by an analysis of primary dyadic interaction in early childhood.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/s11097-009-9136-4

Full citation:

Fuchs, T. , de Jaegher, (2009). Enactive intersubjectivity: participatory sense-making and mutual incorporation. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 8 (4), pp. 465-486.

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