We spend a lot of time thinking about other people: their motivations, what they are thinking, why they want particular things. Sometimes we are aware of it, but it often occurs without conscious thought, and we can respond appropriately to other people's thoughts in a diverse range of situations.
The Social Mind: A Philosophical Introduction examines the cognitive capacities that facilitate this amazing ability. It explains and critiques key philosophical theories about how we think about other people's minds, measuring them against empirical findings from neuroscience, anthropology, developmental psychology and cognitive ethology. Some of the fascinating questions addressed include:
- How do we think about other people's minds? Do we put ourselves in another's shoes to work out what they think?
- When do we need to think about another person's thoughts?
- What kinds of thoughts do we attribute to others? Are they propositional attitudes like beliefs and desires as analytic philosophers have often assumed, or could they be something else?
- What sorts of neural mechanisms underlie our ability to think about other people's thoughts?
- How is the ability to think about other minds different for individuals on the autism Spectrum?
- Is a preoccupation with other people's thoughts a Western phenomenon or is it found in all cultures?
- How do children learn to think about other minds?
- Can non-human animals think about other minds?
These questions are applied to case studies throughout the book, including mirror neurons, recent research on infant social cognition, false belief tasks, and cross-cultural studies.
Covering complex interdisciplinary debates in an accessible and clear way, with chapter summaries, annotated further reading, and a glossary, The Social Mind: A Philosophical Introduction is an ideal entry point into this fast-moving and exciting field. It is essential reading for students of philosophy of mind and psychology, and also of interest to those in related subjects such as cognitive science, social and developmental psychology, and anthropology.
Table of Contents
Part1: The Foundations of the Social Cognition Debate
Introduction: What is ‘The Social Mind’?
1. What a Good Account of Social Cognition Should Explain
2. The Philosophical Heritage of Mindreading
Part 2: How do we Attribute Propositional Attitudes to Others?
3. Nativism and the Infant Mindreading Hypothesis
4. Constructivism and the Theory of Mind
5. Simulation Theory
Part 3: Minimal Theories of Mindreading
6. Mirror Neurons: The Neural Basis of Mindreading?
7. A ‘Two Systems’ Account of Mindreading
8. Folk Psychologies
9. Where Next?
Appendix: Working with Babies.
Jane Suilin Lavelle is a lecturer in Philosophy of Mind and Cognition at The University of Edinburgh, UK.
"Written by a philosopher who has engaged deeply with empirical research this book shows why the social mind is such an exciting interdisciplinary topic. It relates foundational conceptual questions to both 'classic' and up-to-the-minute findings and debates. It is an admirably clear and invaluable guide for any student or researcher interested in this topic." - Ian Apperly, University of Birmingham, UK
"This is an excellent introduction to social cognition. Lavelle provides a succinct and accessible overview of the central philosophical questions, positions, and arguments on the important topic of how we understand each other. This timely guide is not only essential for philosophers, but also for cognitive scientists with an interest in philosophy." - Tobias Schlicht, Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany
"A systematic and historical overview of recent theoretical and empirical research on mindreading. It will be useful to psychologists interested in delving into the philosophical background of this research, and to philosophers interested in understanding how mindreading links up with broader philosophical issues." - John Michael, University of Warwick, UK