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Mindreading Beyond Belief: A More Comprehensive Conception of How We Understand Others

Traditional theories of mindreading tend to focus exclusively on attributing beliefs and desires to other agents. The literature emphasizes belief attribution in particular, with numerous debates over when children develop the concept of belief, how neurotypical adult humans attribute beliefs to others, whether non-human animals have the concept of belief, etc. I describe a growing school of thought that the heavy focus on belief leaves traditional theories of mindreading unable to account for the complexity, diversity, and messiness of ordinary social interactions. I present a few broader, more comprehensive conceptions of mindreading that take into account how stereotypes, character trait inferences, social biases, and more influence how we understand and interact with others. These broader conceptions of mindreading promise to be more empirically adequate and have fruitful application to various debates in philosophy and cognitive science.

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