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Science. 2014 Jun 20;344(6190):1243091. doi: 10.1126/science.1243091.

The cultural evolution of mind reading.

Author information

1
All Souls College and Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 4AL, UK. cecilia.heyes@all-souls.ox.ac.uk.
2
Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London, London WC1N 3BG, UK.

Abstract

It is not just a manner of speaking: "Mind reading," or working out what others are thinking and feeling, is markedly similar to print reading. Both of these distinctly human skills recover meaning from signs, depend on dedicated cortical areas, are subject to genetically heritable disorders, show cultural variation around a universal core, and regulate how people behave. But when it comes to development, the evidence is conflicting. Some studies show that, like learning to read print, learning to read minds is a long, hard process that depends on tuition. Others indicate that even very young, nonliterate infants are already capable of mind reading. Here, we propose a resolution to this conflict. We suggest that infants are equipped with neurocognitive mechanisms that yield accurate expectations about behavior ("automatic" or "implicit" mind reading), whereas "explicit" mind reading, like literacy, is a culturally inherited skill; it is passed from one generation to the next by verbal instruction.

PMID:
24948740
DOI:
10.1126/science.1243091
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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