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I interact therefore I am


Bolis,  Dimitris
Independent Max Planck Research Group Social Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Max Planck Society;
IMPRS Translational Psychiatry, Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Max Planck Society;

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Bolis, D. (2020). I interact therefore I am. PhD Thesis, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, München.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000B-4F0C-1
That psychological sciences suffer from a profound crisis is probably not extremely controversial. Yet, arguably, the recently debated replication failure is nothing but a symptom of deeply rooted dichotomies and ontological commitments lying at its core. Undeniably, essential aspects of the human condition are typically studied in isolation via applying static categories, while philosophical considerations and human practice are largely neglected. In this context and drawing inspiration from real-life experience through a Vygotskian lens, this thesis attempts to motivate a systematic shift of focus from being to becoming; in fact becoming-with. More concretely, leaning on the dialectical method, cultural-historical theory and recent developments of social computational neuroscience, (i.) this thesis presents the dialectical attunement account which argues that a multiscale analysis of social interaction might allow us to scientifically reconsider the self, beyond the individual, where it really emerges, unfolds and manifests itself — in social relations. In this light, (ii.) it puts forward the dialectical misattunement hypothesis, which views autism and broadly psychopathology as a dynamic interpersonal mismatch, rather than a (disordered) function of single brains. Critically, (iii.) it operationalizes these hypotheses by establishing a novel empirical framework, namely two-person psychophysiology, which measures and analyzes the multiscale dynamics of social interaction. Deploying this framework, this thesis empirically demonstrates that (iv.) real-time dynamics of social interaction do matter in both collective and individual dimensions ‒even beyond awareness‒ lending support to second-person and enactivist proposals. With regard to psychopathology, this thesis demonstrates that (v.) it is primarily the mismatch of autistic traits –not traits per se– which predicts core aspects of interpersonal attunement in real-life social relations, offering a first empirical validation of the dialectical misattunement hypothesis. Taken together, this thesis tries to break free from dichotomies such as internalism/externalism or healthy/patient, in experiential, theoretical, methodological and empirical regards. Such a dialectical and empirical approach to human becoming in and through social interaction encourages a social change pertinent to various fields of human research and practice, ranging from psychiatry and pedagogy to ethics and artificial intelligence.