Reading Minds: How Childhood Teaches Us to Understand People

ISBN : 9780190878672

Henry Wellman
200 ページ
156 x 235 mm

The need to understand human social life is basic to our human nature and fuels a life-long quest that we begin in early childhood. Key to this quest is trying to fathom our inner mental states-our hopes, plans, wants, thoughts, and emotions. Scientists deem this developing a "theory of mind." In Reading Minds, Henry Wellman tells the story of our journey into that understanding.

Our hard-won, everyday comprehension of people and minds is not spoon-fed or taught. Each of us creates a wide-ranging theory of mind step-by-step and uses it to understand how all people work. Failure to learn these steps cripples a child, and ultimately an adult, in areas as diverse as interacting socially, creating a coherent life story, enjoying drama and movies, and living on one's own. Progressing along these steps-as most of us do-allows us to see the nature of our shared humanity, to understand our children and our childhood selves, to teach and to learn from others, and to better navigate and make sense of our social world. Theory of mind is basic to why some of us become religious believers and others atheists, why some of us become novelists and all of us love stories, why some love scary movies and some hate them. Reading Minds illuminates how we develop this theory of mind as children, how that defines us as individuals, and ultimately how it defines us as human.



Chapter 1: Reading Minds 101

How We Begin

Reading the Minds of Others

Mistakes Are Made

Life Without Reading Minds: Autism and Mind Blindness

Going Forward

Chapter 2: Mindreading, Gossip, and Liars

Gossip: Can You Blame Your Primate DNA?

Reading Minds 102

Not Just for Experts: Everyday Psychology

Lies, Damned Lies, and Deceptions

How to Detect Liars

Our Social Brain

Chapter 3: Friends, Secrets, and Lies

Children Master False Beliefs

Back to Africa

Lies and Deception

Hiding and Secrets


Ruby Bridges and Friendlessness

Chapter 4: Imagination and Reality

Real or Imagined: Can Children Tell?

Jean Piaget

Imaginary Companions

Mixing Mind and Reality--We All Do It

In Sum

Chapter 5: Putting the Theory in Theory of Mind

Temple Grandin: Thinking in Pictures

Everyday Theories

Building Theories

Theory? Or Not?

Chapter 6: Block by Block

Building Theory of Mind

How Deafness Influences Theory of Mind

Stepping Up

Deaf with Deaf Parents

Watching a Sign Language Arise

Enhancing Theory of Mind

Can Sequences Differ?

Theories Beget Theories

Building with Blocks

Chapter 7: The Baby Boom: Where Reading Minds Begins

Infants' Social Understanding

How It's Done


How Infants Understand People

Further Questions

Primal Egocentrism

False Beliefs?

Human Learning: The Real Baby Boom

Chapter 8: Superpowers, God, Omniscience, and Afterlife


How Children Link to God


Does Religion Help?

Adult, Too

The Living Dead


Is Your Mind Invisible? Is Your Brain?

The Invisible Brain

The Soul Has It

Transcending the Ordinary

Chapter 9: Possible Worlds, Possible Minds

When People Don't Care

When God Talks Back

Mind Overcomes Reality

People Everywhere are Different, People Everywhere are Just the Same

Teaching and Time

Rubber Band Development

Contradictions and Progress

Chapter 10: Chimps, Dogs and Us: The Evolution of Reading Minds

How Human Are They?

Rich or Lean?

The Lean

Getting Richer

Chimp Limitations

Human versus Chimp: Sharing, Helping, and Acquiring

Sharing and Cooperation

Helpful Disclosures

Helpful Acts

My Dog Can Read My Mind

Temperamental Humans

Social Intelligence

Chapter 11: The Social Brain

Cells that Read Minds

How It Works

Yawning Infects Us

TOM: The Theory of Mind Network

Childish Brains

Plastic Brains

Chapter 12: Hi, Robot

The Uncanny Valley

Creepiness Creeps In

Learning from Robots

Trustworthy Testimony

Developing Ideas about Robots

Younger Children Learn from Robots

Younger versus Older Children and Robots

Feelings toward Robots

Morality for Robots?

Into the Future

Chapter 13: Theory of Mind At Work

At Work in the Law

Mind Bubbles Up

Mysteries of Mind

Theory of Mind at Work for Childish Adults

Theory of Mind Works Against Us

Forecasting Feelings

Surprise: It's Not the Thought that Counts

Easy Knowledge Is Bad for You

How to Get Smarter

Always Working

Chapter 14: Stories, Theories, Minds

The Stories We Live By

Self-Deceptions and Errors

Understanding and Misunderstanding Emotions

It's Magic

We Don't Know What We Don't Know

Reading Minds


Henry Wellman graduated with a BA from Pomona College in 1970 and with a PhD from the Institute of Child Psychology at the University of Minnesota in 1975. He has been on the faculty of the University of Michigan for just over 40 years. His book Making Minds (OUP 2014) won book awards from the American Psychological Association and the Cognitive Development Society. He is recipient of the Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award, University of Michigan 2009; the G. Stanley Hall Award (for distinguished career contributions to Developmental Psychology) from the American Psychological Association, 2012; and a MERIT award from the National Institute of Child Health and Development.