EuroUnderstanding Collaborative Research Projects (CRPs)

Understanding the Normative Dimensions of Human Conduct: Conceptual and Developmental Issues (NormCon)

The central goal of the Collaborative Research Project NormCon will be to investigate the role of understanding norms and rules in domains that precede the development of higher-order mental abilities in humans. We want to pursue this goal by an interdisciplinary approach combining conceptual methods in philosophy with experimental work in developmental psychology. The project will also investigate how issues of normativity vary between cultures, e.g., children’s experience of authority or their use and knowledge of social display rules.

One of our conceptual aims is to clarify how cognitive and non-cognitive ways of understanding are related to the concept of rule-following. Although the term “rule” will be used very broadly in our project, including also simple action schemata, the concept of rule-following is much narrower and depends on an understanding of normativity. However, we do not assume that this understanding must go hand in hand with linguistic competence. This is why our research will focus on pre-linguistic forms of shared intentionality. With this background in mind, our main question is how norms are recognized by participants in social interaction, as opposed to merely recognizing a regularity to which one might adapt. This contrast is particularly important in studying how young children become aware of both conventional and non-conventional norms. Although we take it for granted that norms exist, our main concern will be to explore how subjects pick them up and how norms can emerge from their interpretation of socially relevant behavior.

Project Leader: Professor Josef Perner, University of Salzburg, Austria
Principal Investigators:

• Professor Ingar Brinck, Lund University, Sweden
• Professor Johannes Brandl, University of Salzburg, Austria
• Professor Dan Zahavi, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Associated Partners:

• Professor Hannes Rakoczy, University of Göttingen, Germany
• Professor Philippe Rochat, Emory University, US
• Dr. Johannes Rössler, University of Warwick, UK