Shaun Gallagher

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For those of a similar name, see Sean Gallagher (disambiguation).
Shaun Gallagher

Shaun Gallagher (born 1948) is an American philosopher known for his work on embodied and social cognition, perception, agency and the philosophy of psychopathology. He holds (since 2011) the Lillian and Morrie Moss Chair of Excellence in Philosophy at the University of Memphis and was awarded the Anneliese Maier Research Award by the Humboldt Foundation (2012-2017). His secondary appointments include Research Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Science at the University of Hertfordshire in England, and Professorial Fellow on the Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts at the University of Wollongong in Australia. He is also Honorary Professor of Philosophy at the University of Copenhagen, Honorary Professor of Philosophy at Durham University (UK), and Honorary Professor of Health Science at the University of Tromsø. He is an affiliated research faculty member at the Institute of Simulation and Training at the University of Central Florida and the Institute for Intelligent Systems, University of Memphis. He co-edits the journal Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, and is the author of several books, including How the Body Shapes the Mind (2005), Phenomenology (2012), Hermeneutics and Education (1992), The Inordinance of Time (1998), Brainstorming (2008), and (with Dan Zahavi), The Phenomenological Mind (2008; 2nd edition, 2012). He is also editor of The Oxford Handbook of the Self (2011) and several other volumes.

He has held visiting positions at the Humboldt University in Berlin, the Centre de Recherche en Epistémelogie Appliquée in Paris; the Ecole Normale Supérieure, Lyon; the University of Copenhagen; and the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at the University of Cambridge. His previous positions include Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Central Florida. He received his Ph.D in philosophy from Bryn Mawr College. He also studied philosophy at Villanova University and Leuven, and economics at the State University of New York–Buffalo.

Philosophy and research[edit]

Gallagher's research covers a number of fields, including phenomenology, philosophy of mind, cognitive science, and hermeneutics, especially the topics of embodied cognition and intersubjectivity. In How the Body Shapes the Mind (2005), and more recent work, he draws from phenomenology and empirical cognitive sciences, to provide a detailed account of embodied cognition, developing distinctions between body image (medicine) and body schema, the sense of agency and sense of ownership. In this work he explores philosophical implications of embodied cognition with respect to topics such as perception, social cognition, agency, and free will. He also develops a critique of current standard theories of social cognition (including 'theory theory' and 'simulation theory') and develops an approach (termed 'interaction theory') which emphasizes embodied interaction. Interaction theory draws on developmental studies, social psychology, neuroscience and narrative theory to develop an integrated theory that recognizes the importance of bodily movements, gesture, facial expression, action, and communicative and narrative practices for understanding other persons.

Embodied cognition[edit]

In How the Body Shapes the Mind Gallagher develops an approach to embodied cognition that combines phenomenology, psychology, and neuroscience. His analysis starts with the distinction between body image and body schema. Body image is a mix of perceptions, beliefs and affective attitudes towards one’s own body (sometimes conscious, sometimes not). In contrast, body schema is a system that involves motor control and that is typically not subject to conscious monitoring. Gallagher clarifies this distinction, provides empirical evidence from studies of neuropathologies to substantiate it, and shows how it can help to clarify issues pertaining to neonate imitation, aplasic phantom limbs, the Molyneux problem, and certain experiments and pathologies that relate to the sense of ownership and sense of agency.

The latter distinction as explicated by Gallagher[1] has been extensively explored in neuroscientific and neuropsychological experiments,[2][3][4][5] including the Rubber Hand Illusion.[6][7][8] The distinction also has application in clarifying specific symptoms such as delusions of control and thought insertion as found in schizophrenia,[9][10] and other pathologies such as Somatoparaphrenia and Anarchic Hand Syndrome.[11] Most of these studies view the sense of agency in terms of either basic motor processes or control of immediate effects in the environment as a result of action. Gallagher has argued, however, that the sense of agency is more complicated and more ambiguous insofar as it can include both prospective intention formation and retrospective evaluation of action, and can accordingly be influenced by social and cultural factors.[12][13]

Gallagher defends an enactivist account of embodied cognition, that is, an account that emphasizes the role of embodied action in perception and cognition (see Enactivism). In this respect he was influenced by the phenomenologists Edmund Husserl and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and the neurobiologist Francisco Varela.[14] Although most enactivists are critical of the extended mind hypothesis, Gallagher has attempted to define an enactivist version of this view.[15] As part of this phenomenological-enactivist approach he developed a critique of reductionist tendencies that attempt to locate the important aspects of embodiment in the brain rather than in the dynamics of body-environmental processes.[16]

Interaction theory[edit]

Interaction theory draws on developmental studies, social psychology, neuroscience and narrative theory to develop an integrated theory that recognizes the importance of bodily movements, gesture, facial expression, action, and communicative and narrative practices for understanding other persons. For Gallagher the minds of others are understood primarily through our interactive relations and our ability to directly perceive their intentions and emotions.[17] He argues that most of what we need for our understanding of others is based on our interactions and perceptions, and that very little "mindreading" occurs or is required in our day-to-day interactions. Rather than first perceiving another’s actions and then inferring the meaning of their actions (as in theory theory), the intended meaning is apparent to perception. Mental states (like intentions) are not hidden away from view, but are apparent in the action movements that constitute them. We can see the meaning of another's behavior through their actions and expressive movements.[18]

"In most intersubjective situations, that is, in situations of social interaction, we have a direct perceptual understanding of another person’s intentions because their intentions are explicitly expressed in their embodied actions and their expressive behaviors. This understanding does not require us to postulate or infer a belief or a desire hidden away in the other person’s mind. What we might reflectively or abstractly call their belief or desire is expressed directly in their actions and behaviors."[19]

Gallagher builds on the concepts of primary and secondary intersubjectivity found in developmental psychology.[20][21] These concepts emphasize the importance for social cognition of embodied and perceptual processes that are operative from the earliest years of life. He also argues for the importance of narrative in our more subtle and sophisticated understandings of others.[22]


Gallagher has written extensively on various aspects of the philosophy of psychiatry, focusing especially on psychological and neurological disorders. His use of the conceptual distinction between sense of agency and sense of ownership, understood as pre-reflective aspects of the minimal self, in the analysis of schizophrenic symptoms of delusions of control and thought insertion[23][24][25] has motivated ongoing debate[26][27][28]

In a more general analysis of delusions, he has argued for a multiple factor approach based on the phenomenological concept of multiple realities.[29] On this view, delusions involve entering an experiential alternative reality. We enter alternative realities in this sense, when, for example we become immersed in a novel, film, theatrical production, or game; the difference is that, due to specific neurological dysfunctions, one cannot easily exit a delusional reality. A first factor (such as dysfunction in the Fusiform face area of the brain) may motivate an anomalous, delusional experience (such as Capgras delusion); a second factor involving a disconnection between the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, involved in conflict monitoring, and the lateral prefrontal cortex, involved in executive control, can allow the delusion to perpetuate.[30] Other factors, including social and cultural factors, can also contribute to the shaping and support of delusional realities.


  • Phenomenology (London: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2012)
  • The Oxford Handbook of the Self - Editor (Oxford University Press; 2011)
  • Handbook of Phenomenology and Cognitive Science. Co-edited with D. Schmicking (Berlin: Springer, 2010)
  • The Phenomenological Mind (Routledge; 2008). Second edition (2012), co-authored with Dan Zahavi. Translations: Hungarian (2008); Italian (2009); Danish (2010); Japanese (2011); Korean (2013).
  • Brainstorming: Views and Interviews on the Mind (Imprint Academic, 2008)
  • Does Consciousness Cause Behavior? An Investigation of the Nature of Volition. Co-edited with W. Banks and S. Pockett (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006)
  • How the Body Shapes the Mind (Oxford University Press; 2005) Chinese translation (2009)
  • Ipseity and Alterity: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Intersubjectivity. Co-edited with S. Watson (Rouen: Publications de l'Université de Rouen, 2004)
  • Models of the Self. Co-edited with J. Shear (Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic, 1999)
  • The Inordinance of Time (Northwestern University Press; 1998)
  • Hegel, History, and Interpretation. Editor (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997)
  • Merleau-Ponty, Hermeneutics, and Postmodernism. Co-edited with T. Busch. (Albany: State University of New York Press 1992)
  • Hermeneutics and Education (SUNY Press; 1992)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gallagher, S. 2000. Philosophical conceptions of the self: implications for cognitive science. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 4 (1): 14-21.
  2. ^ Farrer, C., and C. D. Frith. 2001. Experiencing oneself vs. another person as being the cause of an action: The neural correlates of the experience of agency. NeuroImage15: pp. 596–603.
  3. ^ Farrer, C., Franck, N., Georgieff, N., Frith, C. D., Decety, J., & Jeannerod, M. (2003). Modulating the experience of agency: a positron emission tomography study. NeuroImage 18, 324-333.
  4. ^ Ruby, P., & Decety, J. (2001). Effect of subjective perspective taking during simulation of action: A PET investigation of agency. Nature Neuroscience 4, 546-550.
  5. ^ Blanke, O., & Arzy, S. (2005). The out-of-body experience: Disturbed self-processing at the temporo-parietal junction. Neuroscientist, 11, 16-24.
  6. ^ Tsakiris, M. and Haggard, P. 2005a. Experimenting with the acting self. Cognitive Neuropsychology 22(3/4): pp. 387–407.
  7. ^ Tsakiris M. & Haggard P. (2005a). The rubber hand illusion revisited: Visuotactile integration and self-attribution. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 31(1): pp. 80–91.
  8. ^ Tsakiris, M. Bosbach S. and Gallagher, S. 2007. On agency and body-ownership: Phenomenological and neuroscientific reflections. Consciousness and Cognition 16 (3): pp. 645–60.
  9. ^ Gallagher, S. 2004. Neurocognitive models of schizophrenia: A neurophenomenological critique. Psychopathology 37: 8-19.
  10. ^ Frith, C. Comments on Shaun Gallagher. Psychopathology, 37 (2004): 20-22.
  11. ^ Gallagher, S. and Væver, M. 2004. Disorders of embodiment. In J. Radden (ed.), The Philosophy of Psychiatry: A Companion (pp. 118-32). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  12. ^ Gallagher, S. 2012. Multiple aspects of agency. New Ideas in Psychology 30: 15–31. (
  13. ^ Gallagher, S. 2013. Ambiguity in the sense of agency. In A. Clark, J. Kiverstein and T. Vierkant (eds.), Decomposing the Will (118-135) Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  14. ^ Gallagher, S. and Francisco Varela. 2003. Redrawing the map and resetting the time: Phenomenology and the cognitive sciences. Canadian Journal of Philosophy. Supplementary Volume 29: 93-132.
  15. ^ Gallagher, S. and Miyahara, K. 2012. Neo-pragmatism and enactive intentionality. In J. Schulkin (ed.), Action, Perception and the Brain (117-46). Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave-Macmillan.
  16. ^ Gallagher, S. 2012. Why the body is not in the brain. In M. Lauschke, H. Bredekamp and A. Arteaga (eds.), Bodies in Action & Symbolic Forms. Zwei Seiten der Verkörperungstheorie (273-88). Berlin: Academie Verlag.
  17. ^ Gallagher, S. (2001). "The practice of mind: Theory, Simulation, or Interaction?", Journal of Consciousness Studies, 8, 83-107.
  18. ^ De Jaegher, Di Paolo & Gallagher (2010). Can social interaction constitute social cognition? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 14 (10), 441-447.
  19. ^ Gallagher, S., & Hutto, D. (2008). "Understanding others through Primary Interaction and Narrative Practice". In T. Zlatev, T. Racine, C. Sinha, & E. Itkonen, The Shared Mind: Perspectives on Intersubjectivity (pp. 17–38). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  20. ^ Trevarthen, C. (1979). "Communication and cooperation in early infancy: A description of Primary Intersubjectivity". In M. Bullowa, Before Speech (pp. 321-348). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  21. ^ Trevarthen, C. and Hubley, P. 1978. Secondary intersubjectivity: Confidence, confiding and acts of meaning in the first year. In A. Lock (ed.), Action, Gesture and Symbol: The Emergence of Language (pp. 183-229). London: Academic Press.
  22. ^ Gallagher, S., & Hutto, D. (2008). Primary interaction and narrative practice. In J. Zlatev, T. Racine, C. Sinha, & E. Itkonen (Eds.), The Shared Mind: Perspectives on Intersubjectivity (pp. 17–38). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  23. ^ Gallagher, S. 2005. How the Body Shapes the Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press/Clarendon Press, Chapter 8
  24. ^ Gallagher, S. 2004. Neurocognitive models of schizophrenia: A neurophenomenological critique. Psychopathology 37: 8-19.
  25. ^ Gallagher, S. 2000. Self-reference and schizophrenia: A cognitive model of immunity to error through misidentification. In D. Zahavi (ed.), Exploring the Self: Philosophical and Psychopathological Perspectives on Self-experience (pp. 203-39). Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
  26. ^ Bortolotti, L. and Broome, M. (2009) A role for ownership and authorship in the analysis of thought insertion. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 8, 205–24.
  27. ^ De Vignemont, F., & Fourneret, P. (2004). The sense of agency: A philosophical and empirical review of the “Who” system. Consciousness and Cognition, 13(1), 1-19.
  28. ^ Synofzik, M., Vosgerau, G., & Newen, A. (2008). I move, therefore I am: A new theoretical framework to investigate agency and ownership. Consciousness and cognition, 17(2), 411-424.
  29. ^ Gallagher, S. 2009. Delusional realities. In L. Bortolotti and M. Broome (eds.), Psychiatry as Cognitive Neuroscience (245-66). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  30. ^ Wise, N. 2012. The Capgras delusion: An integrated Approach. PhD dissertation. Macquarie University.

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