Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Theory of Mind

First things first: It's still survey week at Thinkulous. I'd love it if you helped me out by taking the survey via the link at the top-right-hand side of this page.

Interesting post recently on Mind Hacks, one of my favorite blogs (part of me is a huge psych geek). Since I've been writing about this recently, I thought I'd post an excerpt that explains theory of mind rather well in a brief way:
People with autism or related conditions are often poor at both deception and recognising deception in others. It's not always the case, but it's quite a common attribute.

Baron-Cohen's article explores what we know about some of the differences in autistic thinking, and what might be so different that an effective understanding of deception becomes almost impossible.

He argues that a key skill is 'meta-representation', the ability to think about other thoughts, imaginary scenarios or abstract principles in yourself or others.

The key is that it's not just thinking or imagining, it's being able to think about thinking or imagining.

When this specifically involves thinking about what other people are thinking, understanding their perspective, it is often called 'theory of mind'.

You can see why this is a key skill in deception. You need to have a theory or understanding of what the other person is thinking or is likely to think, to work out how to hide the real state of the world from them.
I recommend the post and much of the site to those who like to explore why and how we think and feel what we do.

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