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Gopnik, Alison, , . The Child as Scientist
1996, Philosophy of Science 63 (4):485-514
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by:

Abstract: This paper argues that there are powerful similarities between cognitive development in children and scientific theory change. These similarities are best explained by postulating an underlying abstract set of rules and representations that underwrite both types of cognitive abilities. In fact, science may be successful largely because it exploits powerful and flexible cognitive devices that were designed by evolution to facilitate learning in young children. Both science and cognitive development involve abstract, coherent systems of entities and rules, theories. In both cases, theories provide predictions, explanations, and interpretations. In both, theories change in characteristic ways in response to counterevidence. These ideas are illustrated by an account of children’s developing understanding of the mind.

Comment: In the mindreading debate, this is one of the main papers arguing for Theory Theory. It offers a good introduction of the theory as well as empirical support. It is suitable in a second or third year module on social cognition.

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Lavelle, Jane Suilin, , . Theory-Theory and the Direct Perception of Mental States
2012, Review of Philosophy and Psychology 3(2): 213-230.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

Abstract: Philosophers and psychologists have often maintained that in order to attribute mental states to other people one must have a ‘theory of mind’. This theory facilitates our grasp of other people’s mental states. Debate has then focussed on the form this theory should take. Recently a new approach has been suggested, which I call the ‘Direct Perception approach to social cognition’. This approach maintains that we can directly perceive other people’s mental states. It opposes traditional views on two counts: by claiming that mental states are observable and by claiming that we can attribute them to others without the need for a theory of mind. This paper argues that there are two readings of the direct perception claims: a strong and a weak one. The Theory-theory is compatible with the weak version but not the strong one. The paper argues that the strong version of direct perception is untenable, drawing on evidence from the mirror neuron literature and arguments from the philosophy of science and perception to support this claim. It suggests that one traditional ‘theory of mind’ view, the ‘Theory-theory’ view, is compatible with the claim that mental states are observable, and concludes that direct perception views do not offer a viable alternative to theory of mind approaches to social cognition.

Comment: A good argument against direct perception as an alternative to theory theory. Since the direct perception theory is somewhat trendy, this paper would be a useful counterpoint in philosophy of mind courses.

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