• 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.


What conditions and events are thought to be amusing or laughable, and why?

For humor to qualify as an aspect of folk psychology, humor need not be created by laypersons. Indeed, most jokes, gibes, and caricatures are the products of specialists—jesters, clowns, pranksters, comics, harlequins, comedians, jokers, mimes, mummers, and cartoonists. So the characteristic that qualifies humor as a feature of folk psychology is the widespread enjoyment of humor by the general public.

Exactly what it is that members of a culture regard as humorous seems to be among the more difficult aspects of culture for outsiders to understand, because catching the point of a joke so often requires cultural information that's been left unstated. If people are to be amused, they must fill in the ...

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