Pierre Jacob’s blog

This blog is devoted to issues in the investigation of human social cognition.

How relevant to the psychology of mindreading is knowledge-first epistemology?

Some epistemic mental states with propositional content (e.g. knowing, perceiving, remembering) are commonly said to be factive on the grounds that one cannot know, see, hear or remember what is not a fact. Others (e.g. believing, thinking, guessing, suspecting) are commonly said to be non-factive on the grounds that one’s beliefs, thoughts, guesses and suspicions need not map onto facts. In short, unlike belief attribution (e.g. ‘Mara believes that it is raining’), the attribution of knowledge (e.g. ‘Mara knows that it is raining’) presupposes the truth of its embedded clause (‘it is raining’). One of the linguistic criteria taken to demonstrate the factivity of knowledge is that generally (if not in every case) the transformation of a knowledge attribution (e.g. ‘Mara knows that it is raining’) into the corresponding question (e.g. ‘Does Mara know that it is raining?’) preserves the presupposition of the truth of the embedded clause (‘it is raining’). One thorny and controversial issue is whether factivity is best construed as being primarily a property of verbs standing for some psychological states or a property of the psychological states themselves.

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Could mindshaping be the bedrock of human social cognition?

The uniformity that unites us in communication and belief is a uniformity of resultant patterns overlying a chaotic subjective diversity of connections between words and experience. Uniformity comes

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If teleology is the answer, what was the question?

Josef Perner is one of the leading developmental psychologists of mindreading (or mental state attribution). His contribution to the subject, including his influential (1991) book, has been huge. It

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Are human toddlers unable to understand the aspectuality of a puppet’s belief that the bunny is not a carrot?

In an earlier post, I spelled out what philosophers and psychologists of mindreading call “the aspectuality of belief.” To understand the aspectuality of belief is to understand that a person can believe that Cicero was bald without believing that Tully was, if she does not know that Tully was Cicero — in spite of the fact that the state of affairs of Cicero’s being bald is no other than the state of affairs of Tully’s being bald.

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What does the infant brain tell us about human Theory of Mind?

Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is a non-invasive technique that measures how light scatters differently on the surface of the brain as a function of brain activity. It is less powerful than functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), but it’s cheaper and more portable. A couple of recent studies by Daniel Hyde and his collaborators using fNIRS shed light on what has become a central issue in the developmental investigation of human Theory of Mind (TOM).

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