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Do we represent intentional action as recursively embedded?: The answer must be empirical: A comment on Vicari and Adenzato (2014)

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Martins,  Mauricio
Department of Cognitive Biology, University Vienna, Austria;
Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany;
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Martins, M., & Fitch, W. T. (2015). Do we represent intentional action as recursively embedded?: The answer must be empirical: A comment on Vicari and Adenzato (2014). Consciousness and Cognition, 38, 16-21. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2015.10.003.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0029-7C2A-B
Abstract
The relationship between linguistic syntax and action planning is of considerable interest in cognitive science because many researchers suggest that “motor syntax” shares certain key traits with language. In a recent manuscript in this journal, Vicari and Adenzato (henceforth VA) critiqued Hauser, Chomsky and Fitch’s 2002 (henceforth HCF’s) hypothesis that recursion is language-specific, and that its usage in other domains is parasitic on language resources. VA’s main argument is that HCF’s hypothesis is falsified by the fact that recursion typifies the structure of intentional action, and recursion in the domain of action is independent of language. Here, we argue that VA’s argument is incomplete, and that their formalism can be contrasted with alternative frameworks that are equally consistent with existing data. Therefore their conclusions are premature without further empirical testing and support. In particular, to accept VA’s argument it would be necessary to demonstrate both that humans in fact represent self-embedding in the structure of intentional action, and that language is not used to construct these representations.