Maria Brincker

University of Massachusetts Boston

The social affordance model: a sensorimotor view of intentional action and aesthetic involvement


Maria Brincker received her Ph.D. in Philosophy and Cognitive Science from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York earlier this year. She spent the past semester as a visiting scholar at NYU and will be Assistant Professor of Philosophy at UMass Boston from 2012. She studied Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Copenhagen, in her native Denmark, and also in Paris, primarily at Nanterre and the Sorbonne. This educational path --repeatedly intersecting with both the Continental and the Anglo-American tradition in philosophy and also with both the humanities and the natural sciences-- has left a defining mark on her heavily interdisciplinary approach.

In her dissertation, directed by Jesse Prinz, she criticizes the traditional theoretical frameworks surrounding the neurological discovery and popularization of so-called mirror neurons. Brincker proposes an alternative "social affordance model" for understanding these and other sensorimotor circuits and their functional role in various cognitive processes. She explicitly uses the analyses of mirror neuron research to advocate for a broader paradigm shift towards more relational and embodied frameworks for understanding the mind.

This doctoral research will also provide the foundation for Brincker's exploration of what one might call "aesthetic affordances," and the role of motor processes and social relations in the appreciation of art, which she will undertake while at the Italian Academy. For more information see her personal website: