Journal Articles

Below you find the journal articles that are published. For more information about the content of these works, please see "research" above.


Fiebich, A. (2020) Minimal cooperation: insights from autism. Adaptive Behaviour, 1-5. doi: 1177/1059712320961842.



In this article, I aim to elucidate minimality in cooperation by drawing on a previously developed multi-dimensional approach to cooperation. This approach provides a useful framework to locate any cooperative phenomenon at a specific point on the continua of different dimensions. That point, in turn, determines the criteria for a particular cooperative phenomenon to emerge. Thus, on one hand, the analysis provides a contribution to the philosophical debate on minimal cooperation by elucidating different kinds of minimalism in cooperation that are characterized by the lowest point of the continua of either dimension, including (1) cognitive minimalism, (2) behavioural minimalism, (3) affective minimalism, (4) social minimalism and (5) contextual minimalism. On the other hand, it facilitates the dialogue among disciplines insofar as it helps determining whether the skills and capacities that are required for particular cooperative activities (e.g. cooperative games like the Joint Simon task or the prisoner’s dilemma) are not only present in typically developing individuals but also individuals with developmental disorders like autism. Drawing on an externalist/internalist distinction, the analysis shows that high-functioning individuals with autism perform particularly well in cooperative activities that amount to externalism and are highly defined by an institutional context, social rules and regularities as well as the roles of the agents.



Fiebich, A. (2019). In defense of pluralist theory. Synthese. doi: 10.1007/s1129-019-024905. 


(There was a typo in 3.2.1 paragraph 7, which has been corrected on March 7th 2020 - with no university affiliation anymore, I lived near Cologne at the beginning of 2020 and moved to Bremen in March 2020 where I built up my new business on March 5 2020. I was not affiliated at any unversity anymore in 2020. The doi above refers to the corrected version)



In this article I defend pluralist theory against various objections. First, I argue that although traditional theories may also account for multiple ways to achieve social understanding, they still put some emphasis on one particular epistemic strategy (e.g. theory or simulation). Pluralist theory, in contrast, rejects the so-called 'default assumption' that there is any primary or default method in social understanding. Seoncd, I illustrate that pluralist theory needs to be distinguished from integration theory. On one hand, integration theory faces the difficulty of trying to combine traditional theories of social understanding that have contradictory background assumptions. On the other hand, pluralist theory goes beyond integrating traditional theories by accounting for a variety of factors that may play a role in social understanding but have been (widely) neglected in such theories, including stereotype activtation, social and personal relationships, contextual features, individual moods, perceptions, and so on. Third, I argue that if the default assumption is rejected, pluralist theorists need to provide another postive account of why particular cognitive processes are more likely to come into play in a specific instance of social understanding than others in order to provide a genuine alternative tradtional theories. I discuss three versions of pluralist theory that meet this challenge by pointing to normativitiy, fluency and interaction 


Fiebich, A. (2019). Social cognition, empathy and agent-specificities in cooperation. 38, 163-172. doi: 10.1007/s11245-017-9480-x. 



In this article, I argue for cooperation as a three-dimensional phenomenon lying on the continua of (i) a cognitive, (ii) a behavioural, and (iii) an affective axis. Traditional accounts of joint action argue for cooperation as involving a shared intention. Developmental research has shown that such cooperation requires rather sophisticated social cognitive skills such as having a robust theory of mind - that is acquired not until age 4 to 5 in human ontogeny. However, also younger children are able to cooperate in various ways. Moreover, the coordinated behaviours of the agents can be more or less complex. Finally, phenomenologcial considerations and findings from social psychology illustrate that (shared) affective states and agent-specificities may play a central role in cooperative activities. I end with discussing the implications of my analysis that speak in favour of a pluralist account fo social cognition. 


Fiebich, A. (2017). Pluralism, Social Cognition and Interaction in Autism. Philosophical Psychology. 30(1-2), 161-184. doi: 10.1080/09515089.2016.1261394.



In this paper, I investigate social cognition and its relation to interaction in autism from the perspective of a pluralist account of social understanding by considering behavioral as well as neuroscientific findings. Traditionally, researchers have focused on mental state reasoning in autism, which is uncontroversially impaired. A pluralist account of social cognition aims to explore the varieties of social understanding that are acquired throughout ontogeny and may play a role in everyday life. The analysis shows that children with autism are well able to understand other people’s behavior by considering social rules and norms, scripts, and stereotypes. Moreover, some individuals with autism succeed in understanding other people’s behavior in terms of mental states by employing explicit behavioral rules as a compensatory strategy. The paper ends with a discussion of the social cognitive (dys)functions in autism and their relation to the motivation of individuals with autism to engage in social interaction.


Fiebich, A., & Coltheart, M. (2015). Various Ways to Understand Other Minds. Towards a Pluralistic Approach to the Explanation of Social Understanding. Mind and Language, 30(3), 235-258. doi: 10.1111/mila.12079



In this article, we propose a pluralistic approach to the explanation of social understanding that integrates literature from social psychology with the theory of mind debate. Social understanding in everyday life is achieved in various ways. As a rule of thumb we propose that individuals make use of whatever procedure is cognitively least demanding to them in a given context. Aside from theory and simulation, associations of behaviors with familiar agents play a crucial role in social understanding. This role has been neglected so far. We illustrate the roles of fluency and associations in social understanding in false belief tasks.


Fiebich, A. (2016). Narratives, Culture, and Folk Psychology. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 15(1), 135-149. doi: 10.1007/s11097-014-9378-7



In this paper, I aim to determine to what extent contemporary cross-cultural and developmental research can shed light on the role that narrative practices might play in the development of folk psychology. In particular, I focus on the role of narrative practices in the development of false belief understanding, which has been regarded as a milestone in the development of folk psychology. Second, I aim to discuss possible cognitive procedures that may underlie successful performance in false belief tasks. Methodologically, I distinguish between two kinds of narrative practices: ‘mentalistic narrative practice’ (which involves an explicit reference to another person’s mental states), and ‘behavioral-contextual narrative practice’ (which involves an explicit reference to the (normative) behavior of another person in a specific sociosituational context). Whereas the former is more prevalent in Western cultures than in Eastern cultures, the latter is predominantly used by members of Eastern cultures. Mentalistic narrative practices correlate with cultural divergences in the development of false belief understanding throughout ontogeny but do not seem to play the key role. The analysis shows that (i) conceptual change and the acquisition of mental state terms is essential for passing the false belief task, and that (ii) theory is likely to be the cognitive mechanism involved here such as proposed by Theory Theory. However, Hutto’s Narrative Practice Hypothesis trumps over Theory Theory to account for the varieties and ambiguities people typically meet when understanding each other in everyday life.


Fiebich, A. (2014).  Mindreading with ease? Fluency and belief reasoning in 4- to 5-year-olds. Synthese, 191(5), 929-944. doi: 10.1007/s11229-013-0301-5



For decades, philosophers and psychologists have assumed that children understand other people's behavior on the basis of Belief Reasoning (BR) at latest by age 5 when they pass the false belief task. Furthermore, children's use of BR in the true belief task has been regarded as being ontogenetically prior. Recent findings from developmental studies challenge this view and indicate that 4- to 5-year-old children make use of a reasoning strategy, which is cognitively less demanding than BR and called perceptual access reasoning (PAR), in true belief tasks. I appeal to research on fluency to explain these findings. On my account 4- to 5-year-old children understand other people's behavior by means of BR if they experience cognitive strain (such as in false belief tasks) but they revert to simpler heuristics PAR when such an experience is missing (such as in true belief tasks). 



Fiebich, A., & Gallagher, S. (2013). Joint Attention in Joint Action. Philosophical Psychology. 571-587. doi: 10.1080/09515089.2012.690176 



In this paper, we investigate the role of intention and joint attention in joint actions. Depending on the shared intentions the agents have, we distinguish between joint pathgoal actions and joint final-goal actions. We propose an instrumental account of basic joint action analogous to a concept of basic action and argue that intentional joint attention is a basic joint action. Furthermore, we discuss the functional role of intentional joint attention for successful cooperation in complex joint actions. 

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