top of page







19th & 20th September 2019


Hof van Liere


S.R. 219


University of Antwerp


Anchor 1



Why pretense?              


The aim of this conference is to explore if and how theories of E-Cognition can account for pretend practices.


Pretend, imaginative and creative play are part of children's cognitive development, and belong to many cultural repertoires. Pretending was seen by Piaget (1962) as a “critical phase in the emergence of mature thought”.


Yet, pretending is still not well understood. For example, it is often held to be indicative of already possessing a “Theory of Mind” (Baron-Cohen, 1995) or higher-order representational capacities.


Today, empirical findings on pretend play show that it develops in a socio-material context. The role of the objects in the environment, embodied interactions, and intersubjective engagements seem to play a more substantive role in shaping our cognitive and creative skills than has been previously thought.


Pretending with toys and other players is important for understanding the development of normative social interactions (Reddy and Morris 2004), understanding other minds (Goldstein, 2010) or development of linguistic meanings and metaphors (Read & Szokolszky, 2016). This suggests that a "Theory of Mind" and other representational skills may develop thanks to, not prior to, pretending.


The conference aims to bring together specialists from the fields of philosophy and psychology who are involved in the study of pretense, imagination or creativity and have a good understanding of the field of E-Cognition. The invited experts will present their recent theoretical or empirical work.



Scientific importance 


1. Novelty

An interdisciplinary conference on pretend play that involves philosophical perspectives on E-Cognition has not been held before. Many in the philosophical field are inclined to speak of pretending as fundamentally individualized, representational capacity, and study internal mental architectures in order to explain pretend play. This conference stresses a very different approach to understanding pretend, imaginative and creative play.


2. Relevance

The conference addresses the ongoing debate between cognitivist and non-cognitivist approaches to cognition. Recently, E-Cognition has been gaining popularity, and frameworks such as enactivism have been increasingly used to understand cognitive acts as imagination or remembering (Hutto & Myin, 2014, 2017) and basic forms of pretending (Rucińska, 2016, 2017). Yet, the existing challenge to E-cognition is that it is still difficult to operationalize, as its "emphasis on holism presents problems for empirical investigations" (Gallagher, 2017, p. 21). This conference adds insight into this debate, as it seeks to explore ways of designing an empirical experiment that would include the hypotheses of E-Cognition theories.


3. Impact

This conference allows for a meeting of philosophers and psychologists that can aid their collaboration. It also allows philosophers to play a more active role in interdisciplinary research, by clarifying and shaping E-Cognition theories into possible experimental hypotheses.



The conference on Pretend Play and E-Cognition explores the practice of pretend, imaginative and creative play from the perspective of E-Cognition.


E-Cognition refers to a young field of interdisciplinary research on embodied, embedded, enactive, extensive and ecological cognition. It includes philosophies of enactivism and embodiment, ecological psychology, sensorimotor theory and dynamical systems theory. It assumes that cognition is shaped and structured by dynamic interactions between the brain, body, and both the physical and social environments. 


The pretend play practices include playing with objects 'as if' they were another, role playing, make-believe play, having imaginary friends, making-up new games, creating rules in games, confabulating, storytelling, making fictional scripts, and acting.

This conference seeks to explore if and how E-Cognition theories, which aim to understand cognition through the interplay between the brain processes, bodily capacities and environmental contexts, can improve our understanding of pretend, imaginative and creative practices. The conference will address newest developments in philosophical theories of E-Cognition in the field of pretense and imagination, as well as latest empirical studies on pretend and creative forms of play from psychological research.

The conference will also explore how E-Cognition can guide empirical research. Can E-Cognitive theories make new empirical predictions on pretend and imaginative play? This will be the exclusive topic of the interactive discussion session with all of the invited keynotes, planned for the second day of the conference.

Invited Speakers

invited Speakers

Thalia Goldstein

Head of "Social Skills, Imagination and Theatre" lab, Department of Psychology, George Mason University, Virginia, USA

Dr Goldstein is researching children's developing imagination, pretend play and social skills. A central question guiding the lab's research is whether involvement in acting training, dramatic pretend play and role play can increase social cognitive skills, specifically emotional control, theory of mind, empathy, compassion, and emotion regulation.


Arkadiusz Gut & Monika Chylinska

Faculty of Philosophy, Catholic University of Lublin, Poland

Prof Gut and Ms Chylinska are currently engaging in the research project "Counterfactual Imagination and Pretend Play: The Cognitive Underpinnings of Human Creativity", investigating pretense scripts and forms of play in search for vents for children’s developing creative abilities. They have conducted a cross-cultural study of creativity, comparing assessment of creative drawings between Polish and Chinese children.


Vasuvedi Reddy

Professor of Developmental and Cultural Psychology and the Director of the Centre for Situated Action and Communication,  

University of Portsmouth, UK

Her interests include the origins and development of social cognition, mainly in young infants, as well as the role of emotional engagement in social understanding, focusing on the everyday, ordinary engagements such as teasing, understood as precursor to pretend play. 


Agnes Szokolszky

Head of the Department of Cognitive and Neuropsychology, Institute of Psychology, University of Szeged, Hungary

Her fields of research are ecological psychology, cognitive science, history of psychology and its methods of research. Her empirical research interests include symbolic play and metaphor production of childhood.


Martin Weichold

Institute for Philosophy, Regensburg University, Germany

Dr Weichold works in the field of philosophy of enactivism, combining enactivist cognitive science with Mead's pragmatism. His research interests include theories of role-playing and social affordances in shaping social identities. He applies affordance-based sensorimotor theory of action to explain the shaping of agency, understood as a form of cultural role-playing


Contributing Speakers

Contributing Speakers of the conference include:

Daan Dronkers, Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands


Marco Faccin, Istituto Universitario di Studi Superiori (IUSS) Pavia (PV), Italy


James D. Grayot, Tilburg Center for Logic, Ethics, and Philosophy of Science, Tilburg University, the Netherlands

Abootaleb Safdari Sharabiani, Sharif University of Technology, Iran 


Pankaj Singh, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, India


Camila Suárez Acevedo, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá, Colombia 


Julia Wolf, Ruhr Universität Bochum, Institute for Philosophy II, RTG Situated Cognition, Germany

Guest commentators for the round table discussion: therapists

Ellen Reijmers & Thomas Fondelli from the Interactie Academie, Belgium

bottom of page