The extended body: a case study in the neurophenomenology of social interaction

Tom Froese & Thomas Fuchs


There is a growing realization in cognitive science that a theory of embodied
intersubjectivity is needed to better account for social cognition. We highlight some
challenges that must be addressed by attempts to interpret ‘simulation theory’ in terms of
embodiment, and argue for an alternative approach that integrates phenomenology and
dynamical systems theory in a mutually informing manner. Instead of ‘simulation’ we
put forward the concept of the ‘extended body’, an enactive and phenomenological
notion that emphasizes the socially mediated nature of embodiment. To illustrate the
explanatory potential of this approach, we replicate an agent-based model of embodied
social interaction. An analysis of the model demonstrates that the extended body can be
explained in terms of mutual dynamical entanglement: inter-bodily resonance between
individuals can give rise to self-sustaining interaction patterns that go beyond the
behavioral capacities of isolated individuals by modulating their intra-bodily conditions
of behavior generation.

Posted in Ideas and Papers.

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