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Guy Woodruff on Theory of Mind - Dictionary of Arguments

Slater I 149
Theory of Mind/Premack/Woodruff: How does one demonstrate that an individual has the capacity to conceive mental states? As Dennett (1978)(1) pointed out, it is not enough to demonstrate that an individual can predict the actions of another individual, for in many cases, actions can be predicted by simply observing the actual state of the world.
Solution: a decisive advance came from the field of animal behavior:
Premack/Woodruff: (Premack and Woodruff 1978)(2) raised the question of whether chimpanzees are able to manipulate mental states and laid down precise concepts to answer their question. They defined “theory of mind” as a system of inferences that form the ability to impute mental states to oneself and others and that allow the individual to make predictions about the behavior of others. This characterization of the concept triggered intense debates and further empirical research among philosophers and developmental psychologists. >Autism/Baron/Cohen, >Theory of Mind/Dennett, >False-Belief Task/psychological theories.


1. Dennett, D. (1978). Beliefs about beliefs. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 1, 568-570.
2. Premack, D., & Woodruff, G., “Does a chimpanzee have a theory of mind?”. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 1, 1978, pp. 515-526


Coralie Chevallier, “Theory of Mind and Autism. Beyond Baron-Cohen et al’s. Sally-Anne Study”, in: Alan M. Slater and Paul C. Quinn (eds.) 2012. Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies. London: Sage Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Woodruff, Guy
Slater I
Alan M. Slater
Paul C. Quinn
Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2012


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