The social brain


December 9, 2011 — August 2, 2023

bounded compute
collective knowledge
extended self
incentive mechanisms
social graph
Figure 1

Like the field of social cognition but with a hip fresh bunch of reinterpretations.

If our brains got big because we needed to be social then is our intelligence intrinsically social? If so, why are we so bad at it? Is consciousness itself intrinsically social? Are non social intelligences are a problem for consciousness?

1 Social exchange reasoning

Figure 2: Each card has a number on one side and a patch of color on the other. Which card or cards must be turned over to test the idea that if a card shows an even number on one face, then its opposite face is red?

The Wason selection task is a logic puzzle on cards. TODO: discuss significance of this for social reasoning, e.g. social exchange theory (Cosmides and Tooby 1992; Sperber and Girotto 2002).

Figure 3: Each card has an age on one side and a drink on the other. Which card(s) must be turned over to test the idea that if you are drinking alcohol, then you must be over 18?

See also Jeffrey K. Bye, Psychology Classics: Wason Selection Task.

Over at the rhetoric notebook I quoted Henry Farrell summarising some social brain stuff:

Mercier and Sperber’s basic argument is, as I understand it, as follows. First — that reasoning has not evolved in the ways that we think it has — as a process of ratiocination that is intended independently to figure out the world. Instead, it has evolved as a social capacity — as a means to justify ourselves to others. We want something to be so, and we use our reasoning capacity to figure out plausible seeming reasons to convince others that it should be so. However (and this is the main topic of a more recent book by Hugo (Mercier 2020)), together with our capacity to generate plausible sounding rationales, we have a decent capacity to detect when others are bullshitting us. In combination, these mean that we are more likely to be closer to the truth when we are trying to figure out why others may be wrong, than when we are trying to figure out why we ourselves are right. …. We need negative criticisms from others, since they lead us to understand weaknesses in our arguments that we are incapable of coming at ourselves, without them being pointed out to us.

Figure 4

2 Anthropomorphising yourself

Is the Internal Family Systems Model of psychotherapy actually useful? In this system people are encouraged to think of themselves as a family of little sub-people. What would it say about us if this works?.

3 Moral cognition

I like to tall that moral wetware.

4 References

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Barrett, Henzi, and Rendall. 2006. Social Brains, Simple Minds: Does Social Complexity Really Require Cognitive Complexity? Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.
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———. 2017. The Enigma of Reason.
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