|Title||Reading minds or dealing with interactional implications?|
|Journal||Theory and Psychology|
The psychological model known as Theory of Mind (ToM) claims that people get along by reading others’ minds, and that one can test how good they are at it by asking them to report on what they themselves, and others, believe or think. This article rehearses objections to both of those propositions. The fundamental objection is that ‘mind-reading’, as a criterion of ordinary mundane competence, sets the bar impossibly high. It assumes a referential theory of meaning, where claims about ‘mind’ and mental terms like ‘beliefs’, ‘thoughts’, and so on, can in principle be checked against a known object. A discursive reading would reject this and start from the proposition that people get along by judging what their interlocutor is visibly doing, as meaningful action. On this reading, ToM’s alleged test of competence is impossible. When we see people use mental terms, we ought to see them as doing something, not reporting something. I give examples from ordinary talk and from the talk of people with an alleged Theory of Mind deficit.