Linguistic and Cultural Contexts in the Functioning and Development of the Mindreading System

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Linguistic and Cultural Contexts in the Functioning and Development of the Mindreading System [poster in pdf]
Linguistic and Cultural Contexts in the Functioning and Development of the Mindreading System [poster in pdf]

ARKADIUSZ GUT & ROBERT MIRSKI & FAN ZHENXU

Linguistic and Cultural Contexts in the Functioning and Development of the Mindreading System

In my presentation, I am going to challenge the central assumption of radical independence of the ability to read mental states (mindreading) from linguistic and cultural factors and, at the same token, to reinforce the stance that culture (within a particular language) influences how children and adults understand the mind. Within the framework of modern psychological research, mindreading is most frequently a quasi-technical term used to describe a complex ability thanks to which we interpret both ourselves and others as psychological creatures, and thanks to which we are able to reason about mental states. In turn, the idea that this specific human ability is universal was linked to the assumptions that: (a) an understanding of mind develops via the preordained maturational unfolding of a neurobiological mindreading module, (b) people are equipped with an innate system of heuristics thanks to which children explain others’ behavior with reference to intentions and belief-states. To challenge such a stance, I will introduce as a theoretical framework the distinction between the low and high or early and later systems in the area of mindreading and show that the specificity of the later-developing mindreading system emerges and develops in interaction with other systems — starting with language, through the involvement of executive functions, and ending with such external systems as the environment of early education. Next, it will be shown that the arguments for intercultural differences in the cognitive system with regard to mindreading competence have taken into account: in the broader context — those differences which are connected with

  1. ways of self-perception (a different self-construal),
  2. taking either an internal or external perspective while describing a social situation in which a subject has participated,
  3. the way people evaluate themselves, especially when they characterise their own decisions in the context of interactions with other subjects; and — in the narrower context
  4. the differences in The 1st Context, Cognition and Communication Conference 62 Linguistic and Cultural Contexts in the Mindreading System the lexicon of mental terms,
  5. preferences in explaining human actions,
  6. different attribution styles (external vs. internal).
  7. Developmental differences in the emergence of the fully-fledged mindreading capability.

To show the influence of culture-specific factors on mindreading, in my argumentation, I will be particularly focused on the narrow context arguments. To do so, I will refer to (a) experimental research involving adults (showing variations in perspective-taking) (b) experiments involving developmental differences in the emergence of the fully-fledged (later) mindreading capability, (c) differences in narrative practice occurring in parental education, and (d) social scripts (cf. interdependence—independence).

 

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