• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

Without taking a single psychology course, ordinary people learn to understand, predict, and explain one another’s actions, thoughts, and motivations. Many cognitive scientists and philosophers claim that our everyday or folk understanding of mental states constitutes a theory of mind. That theory is widely called folk psychology (sometimes commonsense psychology). The terms in which folk psychology are couched are familiar ones of ‘belief’ and ‘desire,’ ‘hunger,’ ‘pain,’ and so forth. According to many theorists, folk psychology plays a central role in our capacity to predict and explain the behavior of ourselves and of others. This book has two goals: (a) to provide a framework for analyzing folk psychologies, and (b) to describe multiple forms that folk psychologies assume in different cultures.

Diverse Cultures, Diverse Psychologies
Diverse cultures, diverse psychologies

The best known early study of folk psychology appeared in a massive work, Völkerpsychologie, by the pioneer German psychologist Wilhelm Wundt (1832–1920) in the opening years of the 20th century. Originally a 5-volume, 3,000-page publication, Völkerpsychologie expanded to 10 volumes by the time of its fourth edition in 1927. In this tome, Wundt pictured the psychological life of the individual as constantly determined by, and interwoven with, the social setting. For Wundt, folk psychology concerned “those mental products created by a community of human life and are therefore inexplicable in terms merely of individual consciousness, since they presuppose the reciprocal action of many” (Wundt, 1912/1916, p. 3). Although it was Wundt who was primarily responsible for popularizing the ...

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