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Week 8.pdf

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Western University
Psychology 2410A/B
Adam Cohen

WEEK 8: MINDBLINDNESS Mindblindness and Mindreading • Our way of thinking about mental states is prefixed by ‘maybe’ • We are never 100% sure what we or others are thinking, but we nevertheless find it easy to imagine what others may be thinking • It it hard for us to make sense of behaviour in any other way than via the mentalistic framework • We mindread all the time, effortlessly, automatically, and mostly unconsciously • Without a mentalistic framework, also called the Intentional Stance, a person with mindblindness is thrown back on temporal-regularity accounts or on routine script explanations or is forced to use unwieldy things resembling the “reinforcement-schedule” explanations that behaviourist psychologists construct • The first two are too limited in their application to the constantly changing social world; the third takes too long to compute • Non-mentalistic explanations are just not up to the job of making sense of and predicting behaviour rapidly • Mindblindness is very real • Children and adults with the biological condition of autism suffer, to varying degrees, from mindblindness • Humphrey’s argument is that the ability to see behaviour in terms of an agent’s mental states is inborn and is the result of a long evolution Evolutionary Psychology and Social Chess • What is Evolutionary Psychology? • Wherever psychologists are investigating human universals there is the strong likelihood that the phenomena are biological, innate, and products of natural selection • If something is universal, it does not mean that there is no variation in the phenomenon across individuals • Saying that a psychological state is biological, means that there is a specific process in the brain that controls it • Language is part of human biology • Cultural variation of course is massively evident, but the basic drive to develop and use language is universal • Evolutionary psychology looks at the brain as an organ that, via natural selection, has evolved specific mechanisms to solve particular adoptive problems • Evolutionary psychology, then, aims to account for the functioning of specific cognitive mechanisms and processes in humans • It also aims to account for the neurobiology, the adaptive value, the phylogenesis, and the ontogenesis of these mechanisms • Finally, it aims to describe any pathologies of these mechanisms • A final qualification about the use of the term ‘biological’: it does not follow that only universals are biological • Just because something is biological, it does not follow that it is innate • And just because something is innate, it does not follow that it has a modular structure • Various behaviours have innate, modular bases are separable and need independent justification WEEK 8: MINDBLINDNESS • One key aim of evolutionary psychology is to describe the evolution of neurocognitive mechanisms • To do this requires the theorist to have some notion of what biologists such as Bowlby call the environment of evolutionary adaptedness (EEA) • This is the environment to which the mechanism was an adaptation • The Social Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness • The period of relevant to human evolution can be seen as spanning two phases: the Pleistocene epoch and the several hundred million years before that • They establish which set of environment and conditions defined the adaptive problems the mind was shaped to cope with • One needs a powerful device - or set of devices - to make sense of actions, rapidly, in order to survive and prosper • Machiavellian nature of social interaction: to interact in order to use others for various purposes • In primate groups it is this social intelligence that determines who wins higher status • What each individual seeks, of course, is reproductive success: producing as many healthy, socially adept offspring as possible • Social Chess • Social chess termed by Humphrey was his idea that intelligence evolved to enable organisms living in complex social groups to understand and take advantage of community living • In a complex society, there are benefits to be gained for each individual member both from preserving the overall structure of the group and at the same time from exploiting and out-
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