Mindreading, Brainreading and Cross-cultural Complexity

Leon de Bruin, Universitšt Bochum [back to top]
This talk explores some of the cross-cultural complexities that arise for a brainreading approach to the problem of the other mind. In the first part of my talk, I discuss the prospects of brainreading for explicit and implicit forms of false belief understanding. The verbal false belief task (e.g., Wimmer & Perner 1983, Baron-Cohen et al. 1985) has traditionally been considered as a reliable indicator that children acquire an explicit understanding of false belief around 4 years of age. Recent empirical studies, however, indicate that implicit false belief understanding already emerges around 1-2 years of age (e.g., Southgate et al. 2007, Surian et al. 2007, Onishi & Baillargeon 2005). I argue that the brainreading project looks much more promising for implicit versus explicit forms of false belief understanding. The second part of my talk investigates the prospects of brainreading for both forms of false belief understanding from a cross-cultural perspective. I discuss a number of recent cross-cultural studies that found both universal and culture-specific correlates of explicit false belief understanding (e.g., Kobayashi et al. 2009), and argue that these cross-cultural differences pose a formidable challenge to the brain-reading project. I propose that cross-cultural studies on implicit false belief understanding might provide us with a possible way to bridge this gap.
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