Spontaneous mindreading: a problem for the two-systems account

Synthese 194 (11):4559-4581 (2017)
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Abstract

According to the two-systems account of mindreading, our mature perspective-taking abilities are subserved by two distinct mindreading systems: a fast but inflexible, “implicit” system, and a flexible but slow “explicit” one. However, the currently available evidence on adult perspective-taking does not support this account. Specifically, both Level-1 and Level-2 perspective-taking show a combination of efficiency and flexibility that is deeply inconsistent with the two-systems architecture. This inconsistency also turns out to have serious consequences for the two-systems framework as a whole, both as an account of our mature mindreading abilities and of the development of those abilities. What emerges from this critique is a conception of context-sensitive, spontaneous mindreading that may provide insight into how mindreading functions in complex social environments. This in turn offers a bulwark against skepticism about the role of mindreading in everyday social cognition.

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Evan Westra
Purdue University

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