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Navigating the Social WorldWhat Infants, Children, and Other Species Can Teach Us$
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Mahzarin R. Banaji and Susan A. Gelman

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199890712

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199890712.001.0001

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The Myth of Mentalizing and the Primacy of Folk Sociology

The Myth of Mentalizing and the Primacy of Folk Sociology

Chapter:
(p.101) 2.6 The Myth of Mentalizing and the Primacy of Folk Sociology
Source:
Navigating the Social World
Author(s):

Lawrence A. Hirschfeld

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199890712.003.0019

This chapter argues that mentalizing—imagining that others have thoughts and feelings and other mental states that motivate them to action—is of sharply limited utility in interpreting and predicting the behavior of others. Humans are in fact quite poor at appraising what others and indeed what we ourselves are thinking and feeling. In contrast, humans excel at interpreting and predicting behavior in terms of unseen social and cultural (nonmental) qualities. In negotiating social interactions, mentalizing is less important than attention to the contingencies of context, normative constraints on action, epistemic affordances of the cultural environment, and the group dynamics of the social milieu.

Keywords:   social interactions, context, normative constraints, action, cultural environment, group dynamics

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