Action schemas : understanding the social-cognitive skills of deaf adults through action-based units of cognition

Berke Can

This thesis aims to apply action-based theoretical approaches to cognition to the empirical literature on the development of social-cognitive skills like mindreading through characterizing conceptual tools that can help interpret empirical findings. The first chapter looks at the empirical literatures on mindreading development, especially in relation to language development, as well as the arguments of action based theoretical approaches to cognition in general. The second chapter presents an original empirical study conducted with an uneducated deaf population who did not have access to conventionalized language during development and can present an interesting case of adults without mentalistic vocabulary. The findings generally support the literature that many uneducated adults, both deaf and hearing, have difficulties with passing the false belief test, and partially support the role of language in this development. The rest of the thesis aims to characterize conceptual tools that can be used to reinterpret such findings within an action-based framework. Chapter three defines the notion of “action schemas” as interactive and anticipative processes that can be applied in a general way across cognition and are especially powerful in modeling development. Chapter four reinterprets empirical findings presented in chapter two as well as other related findings in the literature through the lens of action schemas. Overall, it is argued that conceptual tools like action schemas can be beneficial for reinterpreting empirical findings within an action-based framework, which can then provide novel accounts of developmental processes.