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The New Unconscious$
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Ran R. Hassin, James S. Uleman, and John A. Bargh

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195307696

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195307696.001.0001

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Folk Theory of Mind: Conceptual Foundations of Human Social Cognition

Folk Theory of Mind: Conceptual Foundations of Human Social Cognition

(p.224) (p.225) 9 Folk Theory of Mind: Conceptual Foundations of Human Social Cognition
The New Unconscious

Bertram F. Malle

Oxford University Press

The ability to reason about mental states has been called a theory of mind because it shares some features with scientific theories. Mental states are comparable to traits in that they are unobservable constructs, but they have a number of unique features. First, mental states are conceptualized in folk psychology as events that actually occur in a distinct domain—that of “minds” or subjective experience. Second, perceivers expect mental states of other agents to be roughly of the same nature as their own mental states and therefore use their own minds to simulate others' mental states, whereas they do not use their own personality to simulate others' traits. Third, and most important, reasoning about mental states is part of a unique and sophisticated conceptual framework that relates different mental states to each other and links them up to behavior. While illuminating the uniqueness of human social cognition, the theory of mind perspective also links social psychology to other disciplines that are concerned with human cognition of mind and behavior, such as developmental psychology, primatology, anthropology, linguistics, and philosophy.

Keywords:   theory of mind, mental states, social cognition, folk psychology, traits, behavior, primatology, linguistics, anthropology, philosophy

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