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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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Theory of Mind: Conscious Attribution and Spontaneous Trait Inference

Theory of Mind: Conscious Attribution and Spontaneous Trait Inference

(p.277) 11 Theory of Mind: Conscious Attribution and Spontaneous Trait Inference
The New Unconscious

Angeline S. Lillard

Lori Skibbe

Oxford University Press

Theory of mind refers to the tendency to construe people in terms of their mental states and traits. An understanding of others' mental states can be described as a theory of mind. The first signs of appreciation of mental states appear very early in young children. Younger children seem cognizant about accidents, goals, and intentions. The very early onset and predictable developmental course of theory of mind abilities has led some to suggest that they are supported by innate processes. One source of support for theory of mind stemming from an innate process is the ease with which normal adults make theory of mind attributions, at least with reference to traits. We even apply folk psychology to inanimate entities like triangles, a clear case of extreme overattribution. The early and automatic deployment of a theory of mind has led to speculation that it stems from an innate process. This innate process could take the form of a module.

Keywords:   theory of mind, mental states, traits, children, goals, intentions, innate processes, attributions, folk psychology, module

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