• 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.


How do people come to know what they know?

Questions about the nature of knowledge and about how knowledge is acquired are the province of the philosophical domain of epistemology. Different folk psychologies are often based on different epistemological assumptions. Consequently, folk psychologies do not all agree about (a) the process by which people derive knowledge, (b) the kinds of information or knowledge that can be obtained from different sources, and (c) the trustworthiness of those sources in the sense of how likely it is that such knowledge is valid or true. Each society's educational practices are products of cultural beliefs about these three issues.

The following discussion of such matters is organized under two headings: (1) knowledge processes and sources and (2) cultural change and ...

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