Knowing Mental States: The Asymmetry of Psychological Prediction and Explanation

Kristin Andrews, York University

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Some interpretations of the two major theories of how minds understand minds, the theory theory and the simulation theory, conform to this require-ment of the Machiavellian intelligence thesis. Though both the theory theory and the simulation theory originated as accounts of how we understand other minds, it has been suggested that both simulation theory (e.g. Bolton 1995; Gordon 1995) and the theory theory (e.g. Frith and Happe 1999; Bolton 1995; Gopnick and Meltzoff 1994; Carruthers 1996) can also provide an account of how we understand our own minds. The classical account of how we know the contents of our own minds emphasized the role of introspection, and it was thought that we have private and direct access to mental states. However, in recent years a significant amount of evidence about the human tendency towards self-deception, overconfidence, bias, and rational-ization has served to undermine the view that we are infallible with regard to our own mental states (Mele 2001; Gilovich 1991; Nisbett and Wilson 1977).