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Psychology 2410A/B Lecture Notes - Nonverbal Communication, Folk Psychology, Social Skills

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Adam Cohen

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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
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
Various behaviours have innate, modular bases are separable and need independent
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