The complementarity of mindshaping and mindreading

Uwe Peters

pp. 533-549

Why do we engage in folk psychology, that is, why do we think about and ascribe propositional attitudes (beliefs, desires, intentions etc.) to people? On the standard view, folk psychology is primarily for mindreading, for detecting mental states and explaining and/or predicting people's behaviour in terms of them. In contrast, McGeer (1996, 2007, 2015), and Zawidzki (2008, 2013) maintain that folk psychology is not primarily for mindreading but for mindshaping, that is, for moulding people's behaviour and minds (e.g., via the imposition of social norms) so that coordination becomes easier. Mindreading is derived from and only as effective as it is because of mindshaping, not vice versa. I critically assess McGeer's, and Zawidzki's proposal and contend that three common motivations for the mindshaping view do not provide sufficient support for their particular version of it. I argue furthermore that their proposal underestimates the role that epistemic processing plays for mindshaping. And I provide reasons for favouring an alternative according to which in social cognition involving ascriptions of propositional attitudes, neither mindshaping nor mindreading is primary but both are complementary in that effective mindshaping depends as much on mindreading as effective mindreading depends on mindshaping.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/s11097-018-9584-9

Full citation [Harvard style]:

Peters, U. (2019). The complementarity of mindshaping and mindreading. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 18 (3), pp. 533-549.

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