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Who really needs a 'Theory' of Mind?

Williams, EI (2009) Who really needs a 'Theory' of Mind? In: Against Theory of Mind. Palgrave Macmillan, Great Britain, pp. 144-166. ISBN 0230552730

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According to the original theory-theory account of social cognition, children develop a succession of theories of mind that, just like scientific theories, postulate abstract coherent mental entities and laws, and provide predictions, interpretations and explanations. These, in turn, enable them to interact successfully with other people. Individuals with Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome are said to be unable to do this. This chapter presents evidence from personal accounts written by individuals diagnosed with either High-Functioning Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome which turns the theory-theory explanation on its head. These autobiographical writings suggest that it is individuals with autism, not typical children or adults, whose approach to understanding other people can best be characterised as scientific and rule-based. Moreover, the adoption of a logical, rule-based approach to understanding other people by those with a high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder leads not to successful social relationships, as the theory-theory account would predict, but instead to inflexibility and frequent social breakdown. I will argue that we do not usually have to theorise that other people have minds in order to understand and relate to them. Our ability to make sense of other people develops from the earliest months of life in the course of our active, affectively patterned, engagement with those around us in many different situational contexts. It is this, not any ‘theory’, which underpins our skill in negotiating day-to-day social interactions.

Item Type: Book Section
Divisions : Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences > School of Psychology
Authors :
Date : 19 March 2009
Related URLs :
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 23 Jan 2013 12:07
Last Modified : 23 Sep 2013 19:31

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