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Do Apes Read Minds?

Toward a New Folk Psychology

Kristin Andrews

Publication Year: 2012

An argument that as folk psychologists humans (and perhaps other animals) don’t so much read minds as see one another as persons with traits, emotions, and social relations.

Published by: The MIT Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-viii

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pp. ix-xi

The gestation period for this book was longer than I had ever hoped or even feared, and so I had plenty of opportunity to receive much-appreciated assistance on a number of fronts. Poppy was born in the middle of the writing, and though...

I. Identifying the Problem

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Chapter 1. Do Apes Read Minds?

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pp. 3-12

A dirty young orangutan named Ceceb wants his head cleaned off. He picks a leaf from the ground and hands it to a human named Anne, who uses it to brush away some dirt. But Ceceb isn ’ t satisfi ed with the fi rst brushing, because he picks up another...

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Chapter 2. Baby Humans and Adult Chimpanzees: Propositional Attitude Attribution in Philosophy and Psychology

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pp. 13-36

In the last chapter, I suggested that a common assumption of Standard Folk Psychology (SFP) is that folk psychology consists primarily of the attribution of propositional attitudes. A propositional attitude will take the form Person-Attitude-Proposition: Brian hopes that the Chiefs will win; Sam believes that he...

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Chapter 3. The Asymmetry of Folk Psychological Prediction and Explanation

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pp. 37-44

There is no doubt that we attribute beliefs and desires to others to a great extent, and for many reasons. We gossip about what others desire or believe, we condemn people simply by citing their beliefs ( “ He rejects evolution because he thinks that dinosaurs still exist and they ’ re really good at hiding!...

II. Prediction

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Chapter 4. How Do You Know What I’m Going to Do? You Know My Beliefs

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pp. 47-64

In the previous chapters, we saw that a tension exists between the accounts of folk psychology that accept both the claim that folk psychology consists primarily of mindreading, and the claim that folk psychologists are successful behavior predictors and...

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Chapter 5. How Do You Know What I’m Going to Do? You Know Me

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pp. 65-98

Though the philosophical tradition emphasizes the role of belief and desire attribution in the prediction of behavior, when we turn to look at the empirical research on behavior prediction from social and developmental psychology, a different picture...

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Chapter 6. The Role of Propositional Attitudes in Behavior Prediction

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pp. 99-112

I invite you to dinner, and you tell me that you will bring a bottle of wine. Later, when I am doing my wine shopping, I take into account the fact that you will bring a bottle of wine. I have made a prediction that you will bring a bottle of wine, a...

III. Explanation

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Chapter 7. What Is Folk Psychological Explanation?

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pp. 115-144

At this point, we have seen many reasons to reject the claim that folk psychology should be understood as the attribution of the propositional attitudes, because we do have robust success in predicting behavior without having to attribute beliefs. Though...

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Chapter 8. The Science of Folk Psychological Explanation

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pp. 145-162

In the last chapter, I suggested that theories of FP explanation are descriptive theories, unlike the normative theories of scientifi c explanation. I described paradigmatic FP explanation as consisting of three distinct elements: a curiosity state regarding a person or her behavior, the explanation seeking, and the...

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Chapter 9. Worries about Explanation and Mental State Attribution

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pp. 163-180

In the last chapter, we found that the verbal explanations people offer for behavior vary both in terms of their contents and in terms of their forms. While some explanations have propositional attitudes as their contents and are causal in form, other...

IV. The Solution

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Chapter 10. Folk Psychological Pluralism: Reading People, Not Minds

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pp. 183-212

According to Standard Folk Psychology, human understanding of other people rests on our sense that behavior is caused by beliefs and desires. However, the evidence presented thus far indicates that this view is misguided, because humans use a variety...

V. Implications of the Account

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Chapter 11. Social Intelligence and the Evolution of Theory of Mind

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pp. 215-230

Humans can do a lot socially without having to think about others as receptacles for beliefs and desires. Yet most adult humans are able to consider people ’ s mental content. If we can accomplish most of our social goals without ascribing propositional...

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Chapter 12. Being a Critter Psychologist

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pp. 231-248

I have argued that being a folk psychologist does not depend on having a theory of mind, and that, for the most part, we do not need the ability to attribute propositional attitudes to predict behavior. I have also suggested that the evolution of theory of mind...

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Chapter 13. Conclusion

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pp. 249-252

In one of his last collections of oral histories, Studs Terkel spoke to Harvard students and employees who had been involved in a campaign to increase wages for custodians, cooks, and other workers. One not surprising fact that emerges from these stories is that before the beginning of the campaign, the workers...


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pp. 253-254


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pp. 255-288


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pp. 289-294

E-ISBN-13: 9780262305761
Print-ISBN-13: 9780262017558

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Human behavior.
  • Ethnopsychology.
  • Cognitive psychology.
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