Theory of Mind

Alvin I. Goldman

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Cognitive Science

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195309799
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Theory of Mind


The article provides an overview of ‘Theory of Mind’ (ToM) research, guided by two classifications. The first covers four competing approaches to mentalizing such as the theory-theory, modularity theory, rationality theory, and simulation theory. The second classification is the first-person/third-person contrast. Jerry Fodor claimed that commonsense psychology is so good at helping predict behavior that it is practically invisible. It works well because the intentional states it posits genuinely exist and possess the properties generally associated with them. The modularity model has two principal components. First, whereas the child-scientist approach claims that mentalizing utilizes domain-general cognitive equipment, the modularity approach posits one or more domain-specific modules, which use proprietary representations and computations for the mental domain. Second, the modularity approach holds that these modules are innate cognitive structures, which mature or come on line at preprogrammed stages and are not acquired through learning. The investigators concluded that autism impairs a domain-specific capacity dedicated to mentalizing. Gordon, Jane Heal, and Alvin Goldman explained simulation theory in such a way that mind readers simulate a target by trying to create similar mental states of their own as proxies or surrogates of those of the target. These initial pretend states are fed into the mind reader's own cognitive mechanisms to generate additional states, some of which are then imputed to the target.

Keywords: theory of mind; mentalizing; modularity theory; rationality theory; simulation theory

Article.  10929 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Mind

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