Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want
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You are a mind reader, born with an extraordinary ability to understand what others think, feel, believe, want, and know. It’s a sixth sense you use every day, in every personal and professional relationship you have. At its best, this ability allows you to achieve the most important goal in almost any life: connecting, deeply and intimately and honestly, to other human beings. At its worst, it is a source of misunderstanding and unnecessary conflict, leading to damaged relationships and broken dreams.
How good are you at knowing the minds of others? How well can you guess what others think of you, know who really likes you, or tell when someone is lying? How well do you really understand the minds of those closest to you, from your spouse to your kids to your best friends? Do you really know what your coworkers, employees, competitors, or clients want?
In this illuminating exploration of one of the great mysteries of the human mind, University of Chicago psychologist Nicholas Epley introduces us to what scientists have learned about our ability to understand the most complicated puzzle on the planet—other people—and the surprising mistakes we so routinely make. Why are we sometimes blind to the minds of others, treating them like objects or animals? Why do we sometimes talk to our cars, or the stars, as if there is a mind that can hear us? Why do we so routinely believe that others think, feel, and want what we do when, in fact, they do not? And why do we believe we understand our spouses, family, and friends so much better than we actually do? Mindwise will not turn other people into open books, but it will give you the wisdom to revolutionize how you think about them—and yourself.
can lead you to recognize humanlike minds in nonhuman agents: it looks like a mind, can be explained with a mind, or is closely connected your own mind. That is, minds can be triggered by your perceptions, by your need for an explanation, and by your social connections. To understand when people might recognize a mind where no mind exists, we have to understand how each of these tricks can trigger our sixth sense. Let me describe each, in turn. MINDS FROM PERCEPTION: IF IT LOOKS, WALKS, AND
argued with, and then nearly gets Noland killed in an attempted rescue at sea. Desperate to form a connection with someone, Noland made up a mind that allowed him to connect with something. This idea for Wilson came to the mind of screenwriter William Broyles Jr. after he’d spent only a week in isolation on an island in the Sea of Cortez; it was also based on his own experience clinging to a picture of his family during the Vietnam War.39 Although taken to extremes for dramatic effect, the idea
that women are people.” I’ll add that men are people, too. Those who write about gender are perfectly human, and are therefore more attentive to differences than to similarities, just like the rest of us. Janet Hyde is the only psychologist to ever propose a theory of gender similarities, where she notes that large-scale studies of gender differences typically identify overwhelming similarities but that secondhand reports nevertheless focus on the small number of differences that define our
alike. We are the same species, after all.” The about-face to exaggeration comes immediately, like a movie cut. After another four paragraphs, all good sense is long gone: “This [testosterone in fifteen-year-old boys] fuels their sexual engine and makes it impossible for them to stop thinking about female body parts and sex.” Really? Impossible? I was once a testosterone-fueled boy of fifteen who thought plenty about sex but also had enough time to play football and basketball, get decent grades,
prominent single-sex school advocates have convinced many parents and teachers that there exist profound differences between the ‘male brain’ and ‘female brain’ which support the ubiquitous, but equally unfounded belief that ‘boys and girls learn differently.’ ” Eliot, L. (2011). Single-sex education and the brain. Sex Roles. 27. Hyde, J. S. (2005). The gender similarities hypothesis. American Psychologist 60: 581–92; Hyde, J. S. (2006). Gender similarities still rule. American Psychologist 61: