Psychologists study perception of mind

February 7, 2007

U.S. psychologists have determined people perceive the minds of others using two distinct dimensions, rather than one as previously believed.

Harvard University psychologists, in an online survey of more than 2,000 people, found most people understand the minds of others by agency (an individual's ability for self-control, morality and planning) and experience (the capacity to feel sensations such as hunger, fear and pain).

The findings, say the researchers, provide a framework for understanding many moral and legal decisions and highlight the subjective nature of perceiving mental attributes in others.

"Important societal beliefs, such as those about capital punishment, abortion and the legitimacy of torture, rest on perceptions of these dimensions, as do beliefs about a number of philosophical questions," said co-author Kurt Gray, a doctoral student.

Gray, who worked with psychologists Heather Gray and Daniel Wegner on the study, added: "Respondents, the majority of whom were at least moderately religious, viewed God as an agent capable of moral action, but without much capacity for experience. We find it hard to envision God sharing any of our feelings or desires."

The study appears in the journal Science.

Copyright 2007 by United Press International

Explore further: 'Free play' for children, teens is vital to social development, psychologist says

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

Quantum Theory May Explain Wishful Thinking

April 14, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Humans don’t always make the most rational decisions. As studies have shown, even when logic and reasoning point in one direction, sometimes we chose the opposite route, motivated by personal bias or simply ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.