Friday, March 22, 2013

The Other Minds Problem

In my first post, I referred to a Psychology Today blog article about Theory-of-MindOne of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell, wrote about the concept in "What the Dog Saw".  He referred to it as the "other minds" problem.

He writes, “one-year-olds think that if they like Goldfish Crackers, then Mommy and Daddy must like Goldfish Crackers, too.” He goes on to explain that infants can’t work out that what is inside their head is different from what is inside everyone else’s head.  “What is the first thing we want to know when we meet a doctor at a social occasion?  We know, sort of what a doctor does. Instead, we want to know what it means to be with sick people all day long. We want to know what it feels like to be a doctor, because we’re quite sure that it doesn’t feel at all like sitting on a computer all day long, or teach school, or sell cars.”  He says that is because, "Curiosity about the interior life of other people's day-to-day work is one of the most fundamental of human impulses."

When I read that I remember feeling surprised and confused.  Do most people really want to know what it feels like to be someone else?  That might explain why my mother keeps boring me with the details of the lives of people I've never met and have no interest in knowing.   I have a great curiosity about the world, and my curiosity about people arises from people being a part of the world around me.  An interest in things is often listed as an autistic characteristic, while I guess an interest in people and their feelings would be a neuro-typical trait.

When you meet a doctor, are you like me and want to know what she does, what kind of equipment she uses, and what field she specializes in?  Or are you more interested in knowing what it feels like to be a doctor?  Leave a comment.

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