Social Cognition: Mindreading and Alternatives
Special issue of the Review of Philosophy and Psychology
Daniel D Hutto, University of Hertfordshire
Mitchell Herschbach, University of California, San Diego
Victoria Southgate, University of London
CALL FOR PAPERS
Deadline for submissions: 1 December 2010
Human beings, even very young infants, exhibit remarkable capacities for attending to, and engaging with, other minds. A prevalent account of such abilities is that they involve “theory of mind” or “mindreading”: the ability to represent mental states as mental states of specific kinds (i.e., to have concepts of “belief,” “desire,” etc.) and the contents of such mental states. A number of philosophers and psychologists question the standard mindreading and wider representationalist framework for characterizing and explaining our everyday modes and methods of understanding other people. One possibility is that infants may be exhibiting sophisticated yet non-conceptual, and possibly non-representational, mind tracking abilities that do not equate to any sort of mindreading.
Proponents on both sides of this debate must adequately accommodate recent work in developmental psychology. Experiments involving a variety of nonverbal tasks—e.g., the “violation of expectation” paradigm and anticipatory looking tasks, as well as nonverbal tasks involving more active responses—suggest that young infants can understand others’ goals, intentions, desires, knowledge/ignorance, and beliefs. Perhaps most prominent are studies suggesting infants as young as 13 months of age are selectively responsive to the false beliefs of others, well before they are able to reliably pass standard verbal false belief tasks around 4 years of age.
This special issue of the Review of Philosophy and Psychology aims to create a dialogue between the mindreading and non-mindreading approaches to basic social cognition. Contributors are asked to clarify their theoretical commitments; explain how their accounts compare with rivals; and how they propose to handle the emerging empirical data, particularly that from human developmental psychology. Themes and questions to be addressed include but are not limited to:
- Infants as young as 13 months old display a systematic sensitivity to the beliefs of others. Does it follow that they must be operating with a concept of belief, or indeed, any concepts at all?
- Normally developing children become able to attribute false beliefs to others between the ages of 3 and 5. Does it follow that they must be operating with a “theory of mind” or the equivalent?
- What does mental attribution minimally involve? What exactly distinguishes mindreading from non-mindreading approaches to early social cognition? Are there theoretical reasons to prefer one over the other?
- What exact roles are mental representations thought to play in mindreading approaches? What kind of mental representations might be involved? Can a principled dividing line be drawn between representational and non-representational approaches?
- How precisely should we understand the explicit/implicit distinction as invoked by certain theorists?
- José Luis Bermúdez, Texas A&M University
- Pierre Jacob, Institut Jean Nicod
- Andrew Meltzoff, University of Washington
- Submission deadline: 1 December 2010
- Target publication date: July 2011
Prospective authors should register at: https://www.
Any questions? Please email the guest editors: