The Cognitive Basis of "Theory of Mind"
By Ian Apperly
Psychology Press – 2011 – 232 pages
Theory of mind, or "mindreading" as it is termed in this book, is the ability to think about beliefs, desires, knowledge and intentions. It has been studied extensively by developmental and comparative psychologists and more recently by neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists. This book is the first to draw together these diverse findings in an account of the cognitive basis of "theory of mind", and establishes the systematic study of these abilities in adults as a new field of enquiry.
Apperly focuses on perceptions, knowledge and beliefs as paradigm cases of mindreading, and uses this as a basis from which more general lessons can be drawn. The book argues that an account of the cognitive basis of mindreading is necessary for making sense of findings from neuroscience and developmental and comparative psychology, as well as for understanding how mindreading fits more broadly into the cognitive system. It questions standard philosophical accounts of mindreading, and suggests a move away from the notion that it consists simply of having a "theory of mind".
This unique study into the cognitive basis of mindreading will be ideal reading for academics and advanced students from the diverse disciplines that have studied theory of mind in particular, and social cognition more generally.
"Apperly works methodically through a wealth of complex studies to develop an account of what mind-reading is, and of the cognitive processes that support it. … Mindreaders is carefully argued, marshals an extraordinary amount of data, and makes a series of claims that are striking and original in their application to mind-reading. It makes a valuable contribution to the debate about the nature and complexity of the cognitive abilities that underlie our navigation of the social world, and should be studied carefully by those who work in this field." – Richard Moore, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany, in Journal of Consciousness Studies
"This is a novel contribution to the field and required reading for those studying mindreading. In addition, the comprehensive review of the literature provides an excellent introduction for newcomers. … It is a welcome theoretical account of mindreading that will provide fruitful ground for research." – Rory T. Devine in The Psychologist
"Apperly’s approach to sorting through the mind-reading evidence in this volume will undoubtedly interest, and perhaps incite, other experts in this field … He presents the cognitive argument … within a framework that makes this book remarkably accessible and relevant for a broader audience. Apperly achieves this feat through clear organization, logical unfolding of evidence and analysis, and a writing style that is professional yet conversational. … Researchers, graduate students, and advanced undergraduates interested in cognitive, developmental, or comparative psychology are likely to be intrigued by this book and to discover new connections. … This book has a unique focus when compared with other recent books in this area." – Marie T. Balaban in PsycCRITIQUES
"Mindreaders is a terrific blend of rich empirical detail and sophisticated theory-building. I would highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the science of human social cognition." - Olle Blomberg in Metapsychology Online Reviews
"I know of no other work on mindreading to cover such a breadth of scholarship, from work on non-verbal creatures who may have a theory of mind, to children and adults who definitely do, via adults with brain damage and psychopathology who apparently don’t. His review of the neural basis of mindreading is contemporary and comprehensive. As if this wasn’t enough, Ian Apperly brings all of this together with great style and humour. This book will find a place on the bookshelves of a wide audience and is likely to direct research on how we came to think about other minds, for a long time to come." - Nathan Emery, Senior Lecturer in Cognitive Biology, Queen Mary University of London, UK
"This book sets out a striking and advanced theory of the cognitive psychology of theory-of-mind performance in adults and demonstrates how this can inform accounts of the development of theory of mind in childhood. This is a tremendously exciting view for developmental psychologists and provides a new focus on adult cognition." - Janet Wilde Astington, Professor of Human Development, University of Toronto, Canada
1. Introduction. 2. Evidence from Children. 3. Evidence form Infants and Non-human Animals. 4. Evidence from Neuroimaging and Neuropsychology. 5. Evidence from Adults. 6. The Cognitive Basis of Mindreading. 7. Elaborating and Applying the Theory.
Ian Apperly is currently a Reader in Psychology at the University of Birmingham. He studied natural sciences at Cambridge University, and completed his PhD at the University of Birmingham.