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Journal Article

Import theory: The social making of consciousness


Prinz,  Wolfgang
Department Psychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Prinz, W. (2019). Import theory: The social making of consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 26(3-4), 112-130.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0003-6DBD-F
This paper outlines a representational framework for an import theory of selfhood and consciousness. Import theory posits that selfhood and consciousness are first perceived and understood in others and then imported from others to self. The theory raises three major claims: (i) conscious awareness builds on self-representation; (ii) selfhood is a social, not a natural, kind; (iii) selfhood is imported from others to self. The paper focuses on the third claim and discusses mechanisms for import from others to self. While export theories offer a number of mechanisms to account for the putative transition from self to others, import theories have so far not much to offer for the putative transition in the reverse direction. A framework is outlined to close this gap. Key to the framework is the notion of action matching. This term addresses dyadic interactions for perception/action matching, that is, matching perception of foreign action to production of own action, and vice versa. The framework specifies both representational resources and social practices on which self-import through action matching is claimed to rely. A final commentary compares export and import theories in terms of explanatory power, claiming that import theories can explain key features of consciousness that export theories can only invoke.