Beyond 'Interaction': How to Understand Social Effects on Social Cognition

Julius Schönherr, Evan Westra
2017 British Journal for the Philosophy of Science  
In recent years, a number of philosophers and cognitive scientists have advocated for an 'interactive turn' in the methodology of social-cognition research: to become more ecologically valid, we must design experiments that are interactive, rather than merely observational. While the practical aim of improving ecological validity in the study of social cognition is laudable, we think that the notion of 'interaction' is not suitable for this task: as it is currently deployed in the social
more » ... n the social cognition literature, this notion leads to serious conceptual and methodological confusion. In this paper, we tackle this confusion on three fronts: 1) we revise the 'interactionist' definition of interaction; 2) we demonstrate a number of potential methodological confounds that arise in interactive experimental designs; and 3) we show that ersatz interactivity works just as well as the real thing. We conclude that the notion of 'interaction', as it is currently being deployed in this literature, obscures an accurate understanding of human social cognition. Ian and Mia Mia enters a coffee shop and sees her best friend Ian sitting on the sofa. Ian doesn't notice her right away because he is stooped over his phone, closely examining the image of a woman on a dating website. Ian looks up and sees Mia, who smirks when she sees what he's been looking at. Ian blushes and quickly puts away his phone. 'It's not what you think', he says. 'I'm helping Sarah set up her profile'. Mia chuckles and asks Ian if he would like something from the barista. Ian asks for a green tea. On her way back from the counter, Mia trips, and spills both of their drinks all over her jeans. She looks around, and notices how everybody in the coffee shop is staring at her. Now, contrast this with the following description of a standard false-belief task procedure, which is typical of social cognition research: Standard False-Belief Task Children see a toy figure of a boy and a sheet of paper with a backpack and a closet drawn on it. 'Here's Scott. Scott wants to find his mittens. His mittens might be in his backpack or they might be in the closet. Really, Scott's mittens are in his backpack. But Scott thinks his mittens are in the closet'. 'So, where will Scott look for his mittens? In his backpack or in the closet?' (the target question) 'Where are Scott's mittens really?
doi:10.1093/bjps/axx041 fatcat:d7ld43lpsbdphgymxlzjgws7ze