Folk Psychology: Simulation or Tacit Theory?

Stephen Stich, Shaun Nichols

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Robert Gordon and Alvin Goldman, along with other philosophers, have challenged the received view about the cognitive mechanisms underlying our ability to describe, predict, and explain people's behavior. They agree in denying that an internally represented folk-psychological theory plays a central role in the exercise of these abilities. They also believe that a special sort of mental simulation in which we use ourselves as a model for the person we are describing or predicting, will play an important role in the correct account of the mechanisms subserving these abilities. This chapter focuses on Gordon and Goldman. It presents an account of the special sort of simulation that lies at the heart of the Gordon/Goldman proposal, focusing on the way simulation might be used to predict behavior. It explores how mental simulation might be used to explain the other two cognitive capacities that have been of special interest to philosophers: explaining behavior and producing intentional descriptions or interpretations. It explains why none of the arguments offered by Gordon and Goldman in support of their simulation theory are convincing. It then sets out two alternative arguments that show why, in light of currently available evidence, the simulation theory is very implausible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCollected Papers
Subtitle of host publicationMind and Language, 1972-2010
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780190267513
ISBN (Print)9780199734108
StatePublished - Sep 22 2011


  • Alvin goldman
  • Cognitive science
  • Folk psychology
  • Human behavior
  • Mental simulation
  • Philosophy of mind
  • Robert gordon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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