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How to Distinguish Two (Or More) Systems for Social Cognition

by Stephen A. Butterfill


Suppose you observe two exercises of competence in social cognition and want to know whether the systems underpinning the exercises are the same or distinct. How can you tell? An immediate obstacle is theoretical: there are many attempts to characterise ‘system’, each only slightly different from the next, and no obvious principle for deciding between competing characterisations. You therefore cannot rely on any one theory. Despite this obstacle, it seems to be possible to formulate hypotheses about the distinctness (or identity) of systems which generate testable predictions. But how? This talk aims to extract a recipe for distinguishing (or identifying) systems from research on understanding speech, action, emotion and belief.