17 - When does smart behaviour-reading become mind-reading?  pp. 277-292

By Andrew Whiten

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The question of whether or not an individual is discriminating between others' states of mind is commonly addressed through a contrast with the alternative that it is merely discriminating between others' behaviour patterns. This is a frequent point of debate in the case of pre-verbal infants (e.g. Perner, 1991a, p. 128) and non-verbal animals (e.g. Cheney and Seyfarth, 1990b, p. 235), where it is usually assumed that mind-reading is a more advanced cognitive achievement than behaviour-reading, and that the latter will precede the former in either evolutionary or ontogenetic mental change.

However, mind-reading is not telepathy. So, the recognition of another's state of mind must somehow rest on observation of certain components within the complex of others' behaviour patterns together with their environmental context: that's all we can see – we can't see their minds in the direct way suggested by the idea of telepathy. This means that the contrast of mind-reading with behaviour-reading is not so straightforward as it may first appear: mind-reading, one might say, must be some sort of ‘behaviourism’! At least, it must reflect some special form of behaviour analysis – special because it must differ from what we typically consider to be the mere perception of behaviour patterns (Whiten, 1993; 1994). Thus, rather than ask where mind-reading differs from behaviour reading, I shall tackle the question of when behaviour-reading becomes mind-reading, regarding the latter as some sort of sub-category of the former.