Framing the 'Social Brain': Challenges and lessons from philosophy of mind and AI for cognitive neuroscience.

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There is a growing idea that our brain to a large extent has been shaped by the cognitive demands made by novel and complex social tasks. In this context, a common term used to refer to the structure or function that has evolved to reach such demands is the ‘social brain’. This term is used by scientists in several different research domains (e.g. evolutionary psychologists, neuroscientists and cognitive scientists). This thesis distinguishes four notions of the social brain and introduces a corresponding conception for each notion. It seems important that scientists are clear about which conception they are researching. Furthermore, the thesis investigates what cognitive architectures (modular versus abductive) are consistent with a functional social brain. It turned out that every type of perspective on the social brain either seems to be conceptually infeasible or computationally intractable. In the context of research on the social brain it seems important to be explicit about what kind of cognitive architectures one is adopting. After all, adopting one or the other architecture can have fargoing consequences for how one interprets existing findings. Also, adopting a specific architecture commits a cognitive scientists to addressing a different set of theoretical challenges that will need to be overcome to be descriptively adequate and computationally feasible.
Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen