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Social Perception 927

is to provide individuals with overriding reasons Bratman, M. (1999b). Shared intention and mutual
to participate in cooperative activities even when obligation. In E. Sosa (Ed.), The faces of intention:
they are personally disinclined to do so. Michael Selected essays on intention and agency (pp. 130–141).
Bratman has argued for the alternative view that Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
individual obligations to participant actions arise Gilbert, M. (1989). On social facts. London, England:
Routledge. (Reprinted in 1992, Princeton, NJ: Princeton
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not from joint commitments but from each partici-


pant’s purposive creation in others of an expecta- University Press)
tion of the participant’s participation, a creation Gilbert, M. (2003). The structure of the social atom: Joint
commitment as the foundation of human social
that has value because there is value in having a cer-
behavior. In F. F. Schmitt (Ed.), Socializing metaphysics:
tain matter settled. Caroline Baumann has argued
The nature of social reality (pp. 39–64). Lanham, MD:
that, contrary to Gilbert’s proposal, the obligations
Rowman & Littlefield.
that arise from joint commitments do not differ
List, C., & Pettit, P. (2011). Group agency: The possibility,
fundamentally from singular reasons arising from design, and status of corporate agents. Oxford, England:
inclination: They do not derive from the will but Oxford University Press.
instead create reasons for following through that Miller, S. (2001). Social action: A teleological account.
weigh against those of personal inclination by rais- New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
ing the cost of not participating. Gilbert builds an Ruben, D.-H. (1985). The metaphysics of the social world.
account of political obligation on her account of London, England: Routledge.
joint commitment. Schmitt, F. (Ed.). (2003). Socializing metaphysics: The
Raimo Tuomela has developed an account of nature of social reality. Lanham, MD: Rowman &
collectivity that employs a distinction between hav- Littlefield.
ing an attitude or acting in the we-mode and in the Searle, J. (1990). Collective intentions and actions.
I-mode. The former is a matter of an attitude or In P. Cohen, J. Morgan, & M. E. Pollak (Eds.),
action as a member of a group, the latter as a private Intentions in communication (pp. 401–415).
person. Tuomela has offered an extensive taxonomy Cambridge: MIT Press.
and detailed analyses of collective attitudes and Searle, J. (1995). The construction of social reality.
actions in terms of we-attitudes and we-actions. He New York, NY: Free Press.
has given particular attention to group belief. He has Tuomela, R. (2002). The philosophy of social practices:
also employed the concept of collective acceptance A collective acceptance view. Cambridge, England:
to account for social practices and institutions. Cambridge University Press.
Tuomela, R. (2003). The we-mode and the I-mode.
Frederick F. Schmitt In F. F. Schmitt (Ed.), Socializing metaphysics: The
nature of social reality (pp. 93–127). Lanham, MD:
See also Collective Agents; Collective Intentionality; Rowman & Littlefield.
Collective Moral Responsibility; Group Mind; Velleman, J. D. (1997). How to share an intention.
Holism, in the Social Sciences; Individualism, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 57, 29–50.
Methodological; Judgment Aggregation and the Wilson, R. A. (2010). Social reality and institutional facts:
Discursive Dilemma; Plural Subjects; Searle and the Sociality within and without intentionality. In S.
Construction of Social Reality; Social Facts; Social Tsohatzidis (Ed.), Intentional acts and institutional facts:
Institutions; We-Mode, Tuomela’s Theory of Essays on John Searle’s social ontology (pp. 139–156).
Copyright @ 2013. SAGE Publications, Inc.

Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.

Further Readings
Baumann, C. (2011). Gilbert’s account of norm-guided
behavior: A critique. In H. B. Schmid, D. Sirtes, &
M. Weber (Eds.), Collective epistemology (pp. 227–241).
SOCIAL PERCEPTION
Frankfurt, Germany: Ontos.
Bratman, M. (1999a). Shared cooperative activity. In E. Social perception, an element of social cognition,
Sosa (Ed.), The faces of intention: Selected essays on refers to the set of processes by means of which
intention and agency (pp. 93–129). Cambridge, we perceive others—individuals, groups of indi-
England: Cambridge University Press. viduals, as well as symbols—in our social world.

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928 Social Perception

Social cognition, in turn, refers to the ways in Clearly, in real-life situations, it is very hard to
which we understand our social world. Thus, isolate social perception from social cognition, and it
social cognition refers to cognitive manipulation seems far more useful to examine the two together.
of information regarding conspecifics. The nature But this should not be taken to mean that social per-
of social perception is a much debated issue, and ception does not exist or that it is not useful in its
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there are views that even question its very exis- own right in understanding social behavioral pat-
tence, given that it is not always clearly distin- terns. For instance, waiting for your turn patiently
guished from social cognition. instead of jumping the queue does not have to occur
This entry looks at the nature of social percep- by virtue of sophisticated reasoning processes such
tion and tries to demarcate its borderlines by focus- as “Respecting others is generally good, therefore
ing on its relations to social cognition and sensory I should wait for my turn patiently.” Most often,
perception. It ends by drawing the relation between information acquired during social perception, for
social perception and related areas such as empathy, example, a set of representations of previous queu-
Simulation Theory, as well as recent uses of mirror ing experiences in this case, suffices in order to
neurons in motor- and action-cognition. explain the occurrence of social behavioral patterns
like the one described above.
Social Perception and Social Cognition
Social Perception and Sensory Perception
Sensory perception, regardless of particular sensory
modalities (visual, tactile, olfactory, etc.), is often In order to further understand the nature of social
understood as occurring at two stages, a passive perception, we must have a thorough understand-
and an active. The passive stage of visual percep- ing of the relationship between sensory perception
tion, for instance, is what occurs at the peripheral and cognitive processing. However, the distinction
parts of the human brain dedicated to perception, between perception and cognition is not a clear one
while the active stage involves processes of under- either, and this unavoidably allows space for a “gray
standing what is out there. Even though no highly area” between the two. For instance, even though it
sophisticated cognitive processing is involved in the is widely accepted that the way in which we get to
passive part of perception, it is widely accepted that perceive the world around us is not isolated from
memory, in other words, stored mental representa- previous experiences, it is still intuitive to assume
tions, does play a significant role in perception. that there are stages of the perceptual process that
In an attempt to distinguish social perception are clearly noncognitive.
from social cognition, it could be argued that a rela- But is it plausible to assume that early, noncog-
tion analogous to the one holding between passive nitive, perceptual stages suffice in order to perceive
and active perception also holds between social social features, or is it that social perception requires
perception and social cognition. In this sense, social more sophisticated cognitive processing?
perception could be seen as part of social cognition. Perception of our social world occurs in the same
But that does not imply that for social perception way as sensory, for instance, visual, perception of
to earn its keep, there have to be special sensory- our physical environment occurs, namely, by virtue
perceptual channels dedicated to social stimuli, of light reflecting on the surfaces of objects (or other
as, for instance, in the case of visual perception (a agents in the case of social perception) and exciting
Copyright @ 2013. SAGE Publications, Inc.

kind of “social sense” as it were, akin to the “moral our sensory apparatus. During perception of a given
sense” championed by the moral philosophers of the object, a representation of that object is formed in
Scottish Enlightenment in the 18th century or, more the perceiver’s mind. A plausible way to distinguish
recently, by contemporary philosophers like Jesse between sensory and social perception is to assume
Prinz). It suffices to say that social perception occurs that representations of conspecifics or of social pro-
on the basis of a stimulus triggering our perceptual cesses either bear a different weight or are tagged
apparatuses, which then triggers deployment of a as different from sensory perceptual representations
proprietary set of representations acquired during and are in turn stored in a distinct locus in the mind
experiences with our social environment. or forwarded toward distinct cognitive processes.

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Social Perception 929

If this is accepted as plausible, then it could be to assume that social perception could be seen as a
argued that social perception differs from sensory part of social cognition that is distinct from sensory
perception. Furthermore, if it is shown that social perception.
perception occurs precognitively, then it could be
said that social perception is clearly demarcated and The Role of Social Perception
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distinguished from social cognition.


Social perception contributes greatly to our under-
The above suggestion seems to enjoy support
standing of others. It does this by providing the
from independent evidence from researches on facial
representational inputs to processes of attributing
recognition. In particular, Edmund Rolls and col-
beliefs and desires to others. In turn, this attribu-
leagues showed that certain groups of cells in the
tion process occurs by virtue of simulating the men-
inferior temporal (IT) cortex of primates are respon-
tal states of others. Simulation processes are often
sive to faces. Interestingly, they also found that single
seen as underlain by brain areas associated with the
cells responded strongly to a few faces and showed
human mirror neuron system (neuronal groups in
little response to certain other faces or nonfacial
motor cortical areas that get activated both while
stimuli. Martin Tovée and associates also found
perceiving and while performing a given action, and
face-selective cells in the IT cortex and the cortex in
are thus seen as not differentiating between specific
the banks of the anterior part of the superior tem-
agents). Furthermore, simulating the mental states
poral sulcus of macaques. Furthermore, Edmund
of others involves empathizing with them. For
Rolls and colleagues found that certain neurons in
instance, when an agent perceives a subject’s facial
the cortex in the anterior part of the superior tem-
expressions, she visually represents the expression in
poral sulcus in primates responded to facial expres-
question, and the emotional states associated with
sions and to facial movements involved in gesturing.
these expressions also get activated in the beholder’s
Crucially, they also found that neurons in the tempo-
mind. That is, the subject empathizes with the per-
ral area were more likely to have responses related
ceived agent by virtue of the neurons underlying the
to the identity of faces. Finally, Robert Desimone
appropriate emotional state that would have caused
and colleagues, who also studied face recognition
the subject herself to draw similar facial expressions
in primates, found a population of cells in the IT
getting activated. In a sense, social perception is the
cortex that responded selectively to faces, and their
starting point of all of the above processes that are
response patterns did not alter over changes in the
involved in understanding others.
stimulus’s size or position in the visual field. Note
that these neurons did not respond to other complex Alex Tillas
objects such as flowers and snakes.
Further evidence of the “special nature” of social See also Embodied Cognition; Empathy; Grounded
perception can be found in the literature on gaze Cognition and Social Interaction; Joint Attention and
following. Among others, Rechele Brooks and col- Social Cognition; Mirror Neurons and Motor
leagues found that at nine months, infants do not Cognition in Action Explanation; Simulation Theory;
Social Cognition; Social Neuroscience; Theory Theory
respond differentially to the perceptual status of the
eyes. They merely follow the adult’s turn of the head
toward a target. In contrast, older infants sharply Further Readings
differentiate these two conditions and closely moni-
Copyright @ 2013. SAGE Publications, Inc.

Brooks, R., & Meltzoff, A. N. (2005). The development of


tor the adult’s perceptual organs. gaze following and its relation to language.
In light of the above evidence, it could be said Developmental Science, 8, 535–543.
that there are neurons in the brain that respond Desimone, R., Albright, T. D., Gross, C. G., & Bruce, C. J.
selectively to “social stimuli.” Note though that this (1984). Stimulus-selective properties of inferior temporal
does not imply that our social world is perceived, neurons in the macaque. Journal of Neuroscience, 4,
in the broad sense of the term, without deployment 2051–2062.
of cognitive processing. Rather, it suggests a way Goldman, A. (2006). Simulating minds: The philosophy,
on the basis of which the raw materials of social psychology, and neuroscience of mindreading. New
cognition are formed. In this sense, it is plausible York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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930 Social Practices

Keysers, C., & Perrett, D. I. (2004). Demystifying social that (social) practices are bundles of actions per-
cognition: A Hebbian perspective. Trends in Cognitive formed by different people. A long line of key topics
Sciences, 8(11), 501–507. in the human sciences have been analyzed on the
Prinz, J. (2007). The emotional construction of morals. assumption that bundles of different people’s actions
New York, NY: Oxford University Press. are crucial to them. Examples are reason, mind,
Rizzolatti, G., Fogassi, L., & Gallese, V. (2001).
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normativity, language, identity, science, the society–


Neurophysiological mechanisms underlying the nature relationship, learning, communication, gen-
understanding and imitation of action. Nature Reviews der, organizations, consumption, and social change.
Neuroscience, 2(9), 661–670.
Because practices are bundles of activity, atten-
Rolls, E. T., Cowey, A., & Bruce, V. (1992).
tion to them perpetuates the long-standing belief in
Neurophysiological mechanisms underlying face
social thought that activity is central to social life.
processing within and beyond the temporal cortical
Attention to practices is also one stream in a wider
visual areas (and discussion). Philosophical Transactions
of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological
intellectual development that promotes activity as
Sciences, 335, 11–21.
equally, or even more, central to human life as mind.
Rolls, E. T., & Tovée, M. J. (1995). Sparseness of the Theories of social practices thereby link up with
neuronal representation of stimuli in the primate other accounts that make action central to human
temporal visual cortex. Journal of Neurophysiology, 73, existence, for example, post-Husserlian phenom-
713–726. enology, pragmatism, and even behaviorism.
Tovee, M. J., Rolls, E. T., & Azzopardi, P. (1994). There is little to unify theories that marshal the
Translation invariance and the responses of neurons in term practices. Many such theories have no articu-
the temporal visual cortical areas of primates. Journal of lated conception of practices. Significant differences,
Neurophysiology, 72, 1049–1060. moreover, mark different explicit conceptions: The
relationship of practices to actions, on the one hand,
and to social phenomena, on the other, can be vari-
ously understood. Still, conceptions of social prac-
tice exhibit common themes and have arisen on the
SOCIAL PRACTICES background of particular philosophies and paradig-
matic social-theoretical and philosophical accounts.
The concept of social practices has recently become
important in discussions of the nature of social life
and ongoing human existence. Theories employ- Social Life
ing the concept also typically embrace an account One of these themes is the centrality of practices to
of activity that forsakes traditional subject–object both the constitution of—what they are made of—
ways of thinking. Theorists of social practices have and the causality responsible for social phenomena.
offered novel accounts of society and human exis- Theories championing this theme represent an alter-
tence that challenge reigning approaches, inform native to reigning social theories that treat individu-
empirical research, and contribute to the integration als, interactions, language, structures, systems, and
of philosophy and social inquiry. so on, as the principle generic phenomenon in social
life. Against, for example, those forms of individual-
Social Practices and “Practices”
ism that build up social phenomena from the actions
Copyright @ 2013. SAGE Publications, Inc.

Since the 1980s, the expression social practices (or and mental states of individual people, theorists of
usually just “practices”) has widely appeared in social practices argue that actions inherently belong
theoretical accounts of social or human life. The to activity bundles (practices) and only as such help
expression and word are sometimes used almost constitute social entities. Almost all social theories
unreflectively to name a general type or realm of that wield an explicit conception of practices uphold
phenomena that is central to the topic under discus- this theme, though individualist analyses of some-
sion. This usage signals that theorists construe their thing called “social practices” also exist.
subject matters as rooted in or as forms of human The two paradigmatic theories of social practices
activity—for common to practically all theories uti- are those of Pierre Bourdieu and Anthony Giddens.
lizing either term is the notion, often unarticulated, Bourdieu conceived of society as composed of fields

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Social Rules 931

of practice, where a field is a bounded domain nonpropositional phenomenon that underlies action
such as agriculture, politics, recreation, or educa- is habitus: arrays of subconscious bodily struc-
tion. Practices in a field pursue the specific matters tures that generate activity, thought, and percep-
at stake in it, drawing on material, symbolic, and tion. Meanwhile, according to Giddens, “practical
cultural capitals accumulated there and arising from consciousness”—what a person knows but cannot
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subconscious generating mechanisms (habitus) that, say—is the central agency responsible for human
in mirroring objective properties of that field, ensure activity.
that practices perpetuate those properties. Giddens, Theories highlighting practices share the convic-
meanwhile, analyzed a slew of prominent social tion that prominent features of human or social life
phenomena, including institutions, change, systems, not previously so conceived are best understood as
power, and ideology, by reference to practices, which constituted or rooted in bundles of actions resting
he understood as structured by sets of rules and on embodied know-how. As the above discussion
resources. shows, the concept of social practices also joins
Philosophers, too, have advocated the constitutive philosophy and social theory. Practically all theo-
and causal centrality of social practices. Examples ries that make the concept central are resolutely
are Charles Taylor’s doctrine that social reality is multidisciplinary.
practices and Theodore Schatzki’s claim that social
Theodore R. Schatzki
phenomena are slices or aspects of nexuses of prac-
tices and material arrangements. See also Embodied Cognition; Habitus; Holism, in the
Social Sciences; Individualism, Methodological;
Human Activity Knowing-How Versus Knowing-That; Pragmatism
and the Social Sciences
Theorists of social practices also usually sport a
particular philosophical conception of human
Further Readings
activity. Since the 17th century, philosophical dis-
cussions of human activity have been structured Bourdieu, P. (1990). The logic of practice (R. Nice, Trans.).
by the dichotomy between subject and object. On Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
the background of the ideas of the celebrated 20th- Dreyfus, H. L. (1991). Being-in-the-world. Cambridge:
century philosophers Martin Heidegger and Ludwig MIT Press.
Wittgenstein, philosophers of a practice persuasion, Giddens, A. (1979). Central problems in social theory.
such as Taylor and Hubert Dreyfus, have made two Berkeley: University of California Press.
important claims. The first is that action rests on Schatzki, T. R. (2002). The site of the social. University
Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.
something nonpropositional, something that cannot
Taylor, C. (1985). Interpretation and the sciences of man.
be put into words, for example, skills or practical
In Philosophy and the human sciences: Philosophical
understanding. This nonpropositional know-how is
papers (Vol. 2, pp. 15–58). Cambridge, England:
embodied, as opposed to contained, in a subject or
Cambridge University Press.
its mind. The second claim is that activity so under-
stood both is conceptually prior to and underlies the
traditional division between mind and the world.
This claim fosters the philosophically important
Copyright @ 2013. SAGE Publications, Inc.

conception of practices as constellations of doings SOCIAL RULES


and the nonpropositional understandings underly-
ing them, which form the background on which— Social rules are the rules of social groups. Different
the place where—states of mind, human activities, groups may have different rules. A possible social
rules, and interpersonal relations receive determi- rule is the rule that one is not to talk on a cell phone
nate content—that is, are the states, activities, rules, while dining with friends. Although such rules are
and relations they are. commonplace, theorists disagree on what precisely
This picture of action also characterizes social- they amount to. There is pointed disagreement over
theoretical practice theories, paradigmatically, the attitudes individual members of a social group
those of Bourdieu and Giddens. In Bourdieu, the must have if there is to be a social rule. One account

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932 Social Rules

argues that there is a social rule when members per- downtown.” Later, both realize that there are two
sonally accept a certain pattern of action as a stan- Greek restaurants downtown. They have no way to
dard for the group. Another account argues that contact one another. Tom and Sue have a coordina-
joint acceptance by the members is required. The tion problem. Each wants to go to the same restau-
joint account claims to explain better how people rant as the other, and neither cares which restaurant
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respond to rule breakers. that is, but where should each one go?
This entry briefly reviews three prominent According to Lewis, a group has a convention if
accounts of social rules and highlights their and only if, roughly, there is a pattern of behavior
differences. in the context of a particular coordination problem
such that all or most members of the group conform
H. L. A. Hart on Social Rules to that pattern, expect one another to conform to
According to the British legal philosopher H. L. A. it, and prefer to conform to it on condition that the
Hart, there is a social rule within a group if and others do, and all of this is known to all.
only if, roughly, all or most group members (a) regu- A clear case of a Lewisian convention is driving on
larly conform to a particular pattern of behavior; the right side of the road. When all relevant persons
(b) consider this pattern a standard to which group prefer to drive on the side everyone else drives on,
members ought to conform, all else being equal; (c) everyone expects everyone else to drive on the right,
pressure one another to conform to the rule; and (d) everyone does so drive, and all this is known to all.
think that such pressure is justified. Though influen- Driving on the right may have become the con-
tial, Hart’s account is open to criticism. The neces- vention by chance. Perhaps some people started driv-
sity of each of his conditions has been questioned. ing on the right for no particular reason and others
Furthermore, it seems that there are situations that took it from there. Lewis emphasizes that there need
meet all of his conditions but do not instantiate the be no explicit agreement in order to start a conven-
concept of a social rule. tion, nor need the parties be moved by a sense of
Thus, consider the following case: All mem- their obligations to others. Group members conform
bers of a particular group are regularly truthful, to conventions given their personal preferences and
they consider not lying to be a standard to which their personal expectations that others will conform.
group members ought to conform, they pressure Does Lewis’s account of convention capture our
one another not to lie, and they believe that such everyday understanding of social rules? One prob-
pressure is justified. As described, not lying seems to lem with the account is that not all social rules seem
meet all of Hart’s conditions for a social rule of this to be grounded in coordination problems. The cell
group. But though each group member individually phone rule imagined earlier seems to be an example.
considers not lying to be a standard to which group It may simply make sense to some people to have
members ought to conform, it is not clear that it is a such a rule. If that is right, Lewis’s account is in at
rule of the group. least one respect too narrow to account for social
It has also been argued against Hart’s account rules generally.
that the kind of pressure put upon rule breakers, Another problem is that Lewis’s account seems
including demands for conformity and rebukes unable to explain important aspects of social rules.
for nonconformity, requires a special standing or People think of the rules of their group as some-
thing that members should conform to regardless of
Copyright @ 2013. SAGE Publications, Inc.

authority. Hart’s conditions could be satisfied with-


out group members having that authority. personal preference. Furthermore, Lewis’s account
seems not to entail that group members have the
David Lewis on Social Convention standing to rebuke one another for failing to con-
form to an established convention.
Some see social conventions as a species of social
rule. According to David Lewis, conventions are
Margaret Gilbert on Social Rules
patterns of behavior conformed to by members of
a given group within a recurring coordination prob- Margaret Gilbert’s account of social rules differs from
lem. Here is a sample coordination problem: Sue those of both Hart and Lewis in significant ways.
and Tom agree to meet at “the Greek restaurant It does not appeal to what individuals personally

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