Psychologists study perception of mind

Feb 07, 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: Intervention program helps prevent high-school dropouts

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Apple sees iCloud attacks; China hack reported

30 minutes ago

Apple said Tuesday its iCloud server has been the target of "intermittent" attacks, hours after a security blog said Chinese authorities had been trying to hack into the system.

US state reaches deal to keep dinosaur mummy

49 minutes ago

North Dakota reached a $3 million deal to keep a rare fossil of a duckbilled dinosaur on display at the state's heritage center, where it will serve as a cornerstone for the facility's $51 million expansion, officials said ...

Recommended for you

Intervention program helps prevent high-school dropouts

19 hours ago

New research findings from a team of prevention scientists at Arizona State University demonstrates that a family-focused intervention program for middle-school Mexican American children leads to fewer drop-out rates and ...

Bilingualism over the lifespan

21 hours ago

It's a scene that plays out every day in Montreal. On the bus, in schools, in the office and at home, conversations weave seamlessly back and forth between French and English, or one of the many other languages represented ...

User comments : 0