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Understanding Other MindsPerspectives from developmental social neuroscience$
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Simon Baron-Cohen, Michael Lombardo, and Helen Tager-Flusberg

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199692972

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199692972.001.0001

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Belief as perspective

(p.35) Chapter 3 Teleology
Understanding Other Minds

Johannes Roessler

Josef Perner

Oxford University Press

In this chapter we compare and contrast three conceptions of commonsense-psychological explanations of intentional actions: theory theory, simulation theory, and teleology. We elaborate, and make a case for, a teleological account, and argue that it can help to shed light on a number of central issues in current theory of mind research, including the nature of belief understanding and the dissociation between young children’s performance of ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ false-belief tasks. Central to our argument are two distinctions. First, we distinguish between a more simple-minded and a more sophisticated conception of intentional actions: ‘pure teleology’ takes actions to be explained by the (typically non-psychological) facts that provide agents with reasons for action; ‘teleology-in-perspective’ makes sense of intentional actions in terms of the agent’s propositional attitudes (i.e. her perspective on her reasons). Second, we contrast two forms of action understanding: explicit and implicit. The dissociation between different measures of belief understanding, we argue, is best explained by the hypothesis that young children’s explicit understanding of intentional action is a matter of ‘pure teleology’, and that their success on ‘indirect’ tests reflects an implicit non-teleological theory of behaviour.

Keywords:   Theory of mind, action explanation, concept of belief, false-belief tests, mental simulation, teleology, perspective problems, implicit vs explicit cognition

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