Beyond Single-Mindedness

A fundamental fact about human minds is that they are never truly alone: all minds are steeped in situated interaction. We make the case for putting interaction at the heart of cognition. This represents a figure-ground reversal for the cognitive sciences, which traditionally have focused on single minds. Read our piece in Cognitive Science, or head directly to the PDF.

animation sequence: 1. title page 2. zoom to cognitive science hexagon with "interaction" at the center 3. hexagon in figure/ground illusion style as whitespace bounded by six circular segments at the corners 4. the circular segments roll into a configuration of six fields: psychology, philosophy, linguistics, computer science, neuroscience, anthropology, each with supposedly 'marginal' research areas that revolve around interaction 5. zoom back to title and author list.

Who are ‘we’We are collective of 28 authors assembled from across the cognitive sciences and beyond, with affiliations in over 10 countries and disciplinary ties to every cognitive science-adjacent field and more.

We are also, as we note in the piece, “assembled with interdisciplinary and intersectional diversity in mind; as a collective we represent only a cross-section of larger waves of like-minded work within and beyond the cognitive sciences”. That is to say, we are not alone.

We hope the letter enables and invites new discoveries, serendipitous collaborations, and stronger transdisciplinary ties across the sciences of language, culture and mind. The measure of its success will be the degree to which it helps inspire the synergy and methodological pluralism it calls for.

The piece was written in response to the Cognitive Science Society’s call for letters on “Progress and Puzzles in Cognitive Science”.

Abstract. A fundamental fact about human minds is that they are never truly alone: all minds are steeped in situated interaction. That social interaction matters is recognized by any experimentalist who seeks to exclude its influence by studying individuals in isolation. On this view, interaction complicates cognition. Here, we explore the more radical stance that interaction co-constitutes cognition: that we benefit from looking beyond single minds toward cognition as a process involving interacting minds. All around the cognitive sciences, there are approaches that put interaction center stage. Their diverse and pluralistic origins may obscure the fact that collectively, they harbor insights and methods that can respecify foundational assumptions and fuel novel interdisciplinary work. What might the cognitive sciences gain from stronger interactional foundations? This represents, we believe, one of the key questions for the future. Writing as a transdisciplinary collective assembled from across the classic cognitive science hexagon and beyond, we highlight the opportunity for a figure-ground reversal that puts interaction at the heart of cognition. The interactive stance is a way of seeing that deserves to be a key part of the conceptual toolkit of cognitive scientists.

Cite as:

Dingemanse, M., Liesenfeld, A., Rasenberg, M., Albert, S., Ameka, F. K., Birhane, A., Bolis, D., Cassell, J., Clift, R., Cuffari, E., De Jaegher, H., Dutilh Novaes, C., Enfield, N. J., Fusaroli, R., Gregoromichelaki, E., Hutchins, E., Konvalinka, I., Milton, D., Rączaszek-Leonardi, J., Reddy, V., Rossano, F., Schlangen, D., Seibt, J., Stokoe, E., Suchman, L. A., Vesper, C., Wheatley, T., & Wiltschko, M. (2023). Beyond single-mindedness: A figure-ground reversal for the cognitive sciences. Cognitive Science, 47(1): e13230. doi:10.1111/cogs.13230 (PDF)

Keep reading: Why a figure-ground reversal?