WHAT I’VE BEEN READING: Other Minds by Bertram F. Malle, Sara D. Hodges

This book is a collection of writing by scholars from disciplines including psychology, linguistics, philosophy and neuroscience, about how we try to understand what another person is thinking. It’s a book about mind reading, but not in a mystical sense! Rather it explores how ordinary people try to understand others. The book explores the age old philosophical question of whether we can ever know the minds of others.

The book explores some of the challenges in attempting to take another person’s perspective (including the inescapability of our own perspective, and the problem of projection). It discusses particularly challenging aspects, including interpreting a person’s desires, beliefs and intentions.

There are also many practical tools to help us better comprehend others’ minds. I particularly found these four essential questions useful: What is the purpose or aim of the perspective-taking attempt? What sources of information are used in the perspective-taking attempt? What are the processes employed during the perspective-taking attempt? What are the results of the perspective-taking attempt?

I also found a great deal of value in two of the introductory chapters: Chapter 2 “Three puzzles of mindreading” by Bertram E. Malle and Chapter 3 “A constituent approach to the study of perspective-taking: What are its fundamental elements” by Mark H. Davis.

For anyone who uses perspective-taking as a tool to support people to better understand one another in conflict situations, this book will provide you with a depth of knowledge and some useful tools to apply, as well as help you understand the limitations of the endeavour.

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