How We Understand Others: Philosophy and Social Cognition, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

How We Understand Others

Philosophy and Social Cognition, 1st Edition

By Shannon Spaulding


106 pages

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Hardback: 9781138221581
pub: 2018-05-18
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In our everyday social interactions, we try to make sense of what people are thinking, why they act as they do, and what they are likely to do next. This process is called mindreading. Mindreading, Shannon Spaulding argues in this book, is central to our ability to understand and interact with others. Philosophers and cognitive scientists have converged on the idea that mindreading involves theorizing about and simulating others’ mental states. She argues that this view of mindreading is limiting and outdated. Most contemporary views of mindreading vastly underrepresent the diversity and complexity of mindreading. She articulates a new theory of mindreading that takes into account cutting edge philosophical and empirical research on in-group/out-group dynamics, social biases, and how our goals and the situational context influence how we interpret others’ behavior.

Spaulding's resulting theory of mindreading provides a more accurate, comprehensive, and perhaps pessimistic view of our abilities to understand others, with important epistemological and ethical implications. Deciding who is trustworthy, knowledgeable, and competent are epistemically and ethically fraught judgments: her new theory of mindreading sheds light on how these judgments are made and the conditions under which they are unreliable.

This book will be of great interest to students of philosophy of psychology, philosophy of mind, applied epistemology, cognitive science and moral psychology, as well as those interested in conceptual issues in psychology.


"Shannon Spaulding has written a short, accessible, intriguing book about mindreading. … Those familiar with Spaulding's work will be unsurprised that throughout the book she displays mastery of the relevant literatures, philosophical and empirical, that her discussion is crisp, and that her ideas are interesting. This book would serve well in an upper-level philosophy course that covers social cognition. Given the close interplay between philosophers and psychologists in this area I think it would be an excellent choice for psychology or cognitive science courses as well." - Joshua Shepherd, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. In Defense of Mindreading

3. Expanding the Scope of Mindreading

4. The Goals of Mindreading

5. Model Theory

6. Epistemic and Ethical Applications

7. Concluding Thoughts


About the Author

Shannon Spaulding is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Oklahoma State University, USA.

About the Series

Routledge Focus on Philosophy

Routledge Focus on Philosophy is an exciting and innovative new series, capturing and disseminating some of the best and most exciting new research in philosophy in short book form. Peer reviewed and at a maximum of fifty thousand words shorter than the typical research monograph, Routledge Focus on Philosophy titles are available in both ebook and print on demand format. Tackling big topics in a digestible format the series opens up important philosophical research for a wider audience, and as such is invaluable reading for the scholar, researcher and student seeking to keep their finger on the pulse of the discipline. The series also reflects the growing interdisciplinarity within philosophy and will be of interest to those in related disciplines across the humanities and social sciences.

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