Sunday, 11 May 2014

Why do we Applaud?

"If nothing else, there's waves of love pouring over the footlights and wrapping you up"
Eve Harrington.

Clapping or Applause is the most common human body noise that others are meant to hear that doesn’t involve the vocal chords. It is a collective social gesture that we use in groups, usually done an act of acknowledgement of something that has been performed well. We show approval by applause, the question is why do we do this? It has been suggested, by psychologists, that ‘clapping’ arises as a human behaviour from infancy, babies reach out to touch objects but in failing to do so, engage in the next best option, smacking their hands together. An alternative theory, proposed by Desmond Morris in his book 'People Watching, a guide to body-language', is that applause is a symbolic ‘Pat on the back’ for the performer, with one hand representing the others persons back whilst the other does the patting.

The Extended Mind

The extended mind hypothesis was developed by Clark and Chalmers. The central argument of the hypothesis is that cognitive processes assisted by entities external to an inidividual's mind should equally be regarded as cognitive. If an external artefact is used to aid a cognitive process or to expedite a process that can be completed mentally, then that process, too, should be considered cognitive. For example, recording information in a notebook could be considered a source of memory that is external to the individual's physical 'mind'. Traditional accounts of cognition are constrained by an a priori commitment to confining cognition within the physical boundary of the individual. In this respect the extended mind hypothesis is not particularly controversial, people very often use available tools to offload cognitive work. 

Where the hypothesis comes under scrutiny is its treatment of cognitive processes. The hypothesis assumes an understanding of cognition that is pre-existing and confirmed. Cognitive processes are processes that are rely on cognition, whatever those might be. It unclear as to where the original boundaries of cognition are drawn before the authors set out to move the goalposts. Moreover, the extended mind hypothesis is more a theory of extended cognition rather than a theory of an extended mind.