Reading minds or reading scripts? De-intellectualising theory of mind
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Understanding the origins of human social cognition is a central challenge in contemporary science. In recent decades, the idea of a ‘Theory of Mind’ (ToM) has emerged as the most popular way of explaining unique features of human social cognition. This default view has been progressively undermined by research on ‘implicit’ ToM, which suggests that relevant precursor abilities may already be present in preverbal human infants and great apes. However, this area of research suffers from conceptual difficulties and empirical limitations, including explanatory circularity, over-intellectualisation, and inconsistent empirical replication. Our article breaks new ground by adapting ‘script theory’ for application to both linguistic and non-linguistic agents. It thereby provides a new theoretical framework able to resolve the aforementioned issues, generate novel predictions, and provide a plausible account of how individuals make sense of the behaviour of others. Script theory is based on the premise that pre-verbal infants and great apes are capable of basic forms of agency-detection and non-mentalistic goal understanding, allowing individuals to form event-schemata that are then used to make sense of the behaviour of others. We show how script theory circumvents fundamental problems created by ToM-based frameworks, explains patterns of inconsistent replication, and offers important novel predictions regarding how humans and other animals understand and predict the behaviour of others.
Taylor , D , Gönül , G , Alexander , C , Zuberbühler , K , Clément , F & Glock , H-J 2023 , ' Reading minds or reading scripts? De-intellectualising theory of mind ' , Biological Reviews , vol. Early View . https://doi.org/10.1111/brv.12994
Copyright © 2023 The Authors. Biological Reviews published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Cambridge Philosophical Society. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.
DescriptionFunding: National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCR) Evolving Language. Grant Number: #51NF40_180888. Open access funding provided by Universite de Neuchatel.
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