The idea of embodiment is immensely popular in cognitive science and psychology today. Everything, including social cognition, is embodied. But what does that really mean? And what would it mean to get out of the armchair and find out?

Over several years, together with Barbara Pieper, Daniel Clénin, and Thomas Fuchs, we have been developing a method for investigating the experience of social interactions. The method, called PRISMA, provides a hands-on way to unravel the experience of interacting. It allows researchers to calibrate and trust themselves to be their own sophisticated instruments for studying intersubjectivity.

A fundamental and largely neglected tool for researching social understanding is researchers’ own embodied experience of interacting with others. The prismatic approach allows us to tap into our rich lived experiences of interacting, and to inform and guide research questions on the role of interacting in social understanding.

We recently published our first paper on this method, entitled grasping intersubjectivity (2016, pdf). The paper presents itself both like a manual, so that anyone interested can have a go with using the method straight away, and it also presents two sets of results. In the first, we show the sophisticated interactional alignments of two children diagnosed with autism. In the second, we delve deeper into the well-known phenomenon of too much thinking getting in the way of fluid interactions, and show how bodily attention to moving together can help get such awkward interactions unstuck.

The prismatic investigation reveals that a subtle instrument for understanding the experience of interaction can emerge when a group of researchers engage in a systematic, embodied unfolding of interactive experience.

In 2012, we organized a summer school on the topic: Embodying Intersubjectivity Research – TESIS summer school, San Sebastián

A few relevant papers/books:

  • De Jaegher, H (2015). How we affect each other. Michel Henry’s “pathos-with” and the enactive approach to intersubjectivity. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 21(1-2), 112-132.
  • Di Paolo, E. (2015). Interactive time-travel: On the intersubjective retro-modulation of intentions. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 22(1-2), 49-74.