Press enter to see results or esc to cancel.

Why You Don’t Know Your Own Mind – The New York Times

Why You Don’t Know Your Own Mind – The New York Times

It’s not our skills of introspection that brought humanity to this point in our evolutionary journey, it’s our skills of empathy and insight into what others are thinking.

We’re actually naturally about as bad at understanding our own minds as we are at mind reading, since, it turns out, it’s the same thing.

“After a certain point in the evolutionary past, organisms began needing to predict whether others posed threats in order to protect themselves, and later needed to coordinate to attain outcomes not achievable alone. This environment strongly selected for mind reading. Had variation in cognitive abilities not hit on this adaptation, puny creatures like us would never have survived in the face of savanna megafauna.

“Mind reading, even in our own hands, is a very imperfect tool: We have to go on others’ behavior (including verbal behavior). We can’t really tell with much precision exactly what others believe or want, because we can’t get inside their heads. So our predictions are often pretty vague and frequently false. Like other Darwinian adaptations, mind reading is an imperfect, ‘quick and dirty’ solution to a ‘design problem.’ It was just good enough that, equipped with this theory of mind, we managed to gradually climb to the top of the food chain. We were able to do so in large part because once mind reading was in place human language, which requires it, became possible.”

“Most important, there is compelling evidence that our own self-awareness is actually just this same mind reading ability, turned around and employed on our own mind, with all the fallibility, speculation, and lack of direct evidence that bedevils mind reading as a tool for guessing at the thought and behavior of others.”


Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: