Pretend Play and E-cognition

The Centre for Philosophical Psychology of the University
of Antwerp would like to invite you to the international conference on Pretend Play and E-Cognition.

Call for papers

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences Special Issue

"Pretense and Imagination from the Perspective of 4E Cognitive Science"


Guest Editors:

Zuzanna Rucińska, Centre for Philosophical Psychology, University of Antwerp, Belgium,


Martin Weichold, Institute for Philosophy, University of Regensburg, Germany,


Submission deadline: 1st August 2020



4E Cognitive Science understands cognition as embodied, embedded, enactive, and extended, though the list of “E”'s can be extended to conceiving of cognition as ecological, enculturated and emotional as well. While there are important differences between these approaches, they all agree that there is more to cognition than what goes on in the head: cognition is said to be shaped, structured or even co-constituted by the dynamic interactions between the brain, the body, and both the physical and the social environment. These approaches have been taking cognitive science by storm.


However, 4E Cognitive Science is still relatively silent about higher forms of cognition, such as pretense and imagination. Pretend and imaginative practices include playing with objects 'as if' they were another, role playing, make-believe or imaginary friend play, as well as practices that go beyond play, such as storytelling, acting, deceiving, or creating and following institutional rules. One hypothesis on behalf of 4E Cognitive Science is that complex forms of counterfactual imagining and symbolic thinking do not come before, but are rather rooted in bodily forms of pretend play and embodied metaphorical acts. If true, this allows 4E Cognitive Science to be uniquely placed to account for the interactive foundations of pretense and imagination. Yet, the established research is inclined to speak of pretense and imaginative practices as originating from fundamentally individualized, cognitive-representational capacities to imagine, intend, and attend to that which is not immediately present, wholly absent, or nonexistent. These are phenomena for which the 4E Cognition approaches are not tailor-made, and which initially, at least according to the orthodox research tradition, require explanations in terms of traditional, representionalist accounts of cognition.


The purpose of the special issue is to investigate whether or not 4E Cognition approaches to pretense and imagination are workable, or even provide the best explanations of the respective phenomena. We invite contributions addressing the following questions:


  • How does an explanation of phenomena of pretense and imagination by 4E Cognitive Science look like?
  • Can 4E Cognitive Science explain all phenomena of pretense and imagination, or are there specific “high-level” pretend and imaginative phenomena that are difficult for 4E Cognition to explain? 

  • Are there aspects of pretend play or imagination that can be explained only, or best, by 4E Cognitive Science?
  • What is the scope and the limit of 4E Cognition’s approach to pretense and imagination?
  • Does the fictional character of imaginary engagements provide a problem for embodied-enactive explanations? 

  • Do particular phenomena of pretense and imagination require representing, and if so, what form of representing? Can they be explained by reference to affordances instead?

  • Can there be basic ‘radically enactive’ imagination that is contentless? Is there then also contentful non-basic imagination, and how would basic imagination relate to it? 

  • Which cognitive states and behavioral skills are needed in order to develop imaginative skills and creativity? How does the material and social environment affect such development?
  • Can practices of pretend and imaginative play help in the acquisition of other cognitive skills, such as counterfactual reasoning, planning or decision making? 

  • What is the relationship between pretend play practices such as role-playing, and cultural and institutional practices where we embody different social roles and follow institutionalized rules? 

  • Can 4E Cognitive Science of pretense and imagination be strengthened by interweaving it with resources from phenomenology? 

  • Can 4E Cognitive Science be incorporated into empirical investigations that study pretend and imaginative engagements?

We appreciate interdisciplinary contributions from philosophy, psychology, and other fields. Manuscripts not exceeding 7000 words (excluding abstract and references) should be submitted directly to the journal via the Editorial Manager:


Under 'select article type' please select "SI: Pretense and Imagination from the Perspective of 4E Cognitive Science".


For further information, please contact


Pretend Play and E-Cognition

When: 19 and 20 September 2019

Where: Hof van Liere, University of Antwerp, Belgium


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.

E-Cognition refers to a young field of interdisciplinary research on embodied, embedded, enactive, extensive and ecological cognition, and includes 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.

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.


Thalia Goldstein - George Mason University, USA: Embodiment in Dramatic Play and Social Cognition

Arkadiusz Gut & Monika Chylinska - Catholic University Lublin, Poland: Would 'anything go' in pretense? On exploratory and evaluative actions of pretending children

Vasuvedi Reddy - University of Portsmouth, UK: Teasing, pretending and deceiving: origins in infancy

Agnes Szokolszky - University of Szeged, Hungary: Development of metaphorical thinking and participatory skills via pretend play

Martin Weichold - Regensburg University, Germany: Rethinking the Mechanisms of Pretend Play by Synthesizing Enactivist Cognitive Science and Practice Theory


Conference participation fee: 75 EUR. The fee covers coffee, lunch and conference materials. Limited seating available.



Please click on 'more information and registration' to learn more about the conference programme and how to complete the registration.

The workshop is sponsored by the University of Antwerp, and the Research Foundation Flanders.

E-mail contact: