Wednesday 16 September 2009

Research Bulletin: Triggering the Intentional Stance

We have not added to our archive of empirical articles in some time, and I will take the opportunity of today’s post to do so.
A recent post on personification, anthropomorphization and the attribution of agency to inanimate objects reminded me that I wrote a chapter a few years ago summarizing the work in this area. Written with Dr. C. Neil Macrae (Aberdeen), for the book Empathy and Fairness (based on the Novartis symposium of the same name), the chapter deals specifically with spontaneous adoption of what Daniel Dennett (1987) calls the “intentional stance.” We are well aware of our capacity to volitionally “see” a target as intentional, but what are the characteristics of a target that spontaneously evoke in us the perception that it possesses intentions? To answer this question, we cannot simply ask people if they view a target as intentional, because we are suggesting this possibility merely by asking the question. Research into this topic is therefore best achieved by studying prelinguistic infants, employing neuroimaging methods, or using clever paradigms that don’t involve asking such questions outright. The chapter by myself and Dr. Macrae, now available in our archive of academic articles, provides a quick summary of this fascinating work.

Dennet, D. (1987). The Intentional Stance. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
Mar, R. A., & Macrae, C. N. (2006). Triggering the intentional stance. In G. Bock & J. Goode (Ed.). Empathy and Fairness. Novartis Symposium no. 278 (pp. 110–119). Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons.

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