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Culture and Cognition

A collection of critical essays

Edited By Shamsul Haque and Elizabeth Sheppard

The past few decades have seen a huge increase in global interest in psychology, with more psychologists, psychology programmes and students than ever before. Culture and Cognition: A collection of critical essays is made up of chapters written by experts in each topic, and is aimed at those wishing to learn more about psychology. While culture and cognition have frequently been regarded as separate areas of study in psychology, this book brings together essays on both of these topics as well as several that consider the direct interplay between culture and thinking.
Essays focus on a range of fascinating topics, such as how culture affects memory for events in our own lives or our perceptions of human attractiveness. Essays also address a diverse range of psychological phenomena like déjà-vu, savant abilities, non-suicidal self-injury, theory of mind, problem gambling and sleep disorders. Socio-cultural and professional issues specifically within the Asian context are also discussed.
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Developing a theory of mind


‘Theory of mind’ refers to the ability to infer what other people are thinking, feeling and perceiving, amongst other things. Psychology as an academic discipline has strived for more than one hundred years to understand and predict peoples’ thoughts, feelings and perceptions; latterly, in one branch of academic psychology, the focus has shifted to investigate how ordinary people come to understand these things and, moreover, how such understanding develops. But why call this ability ‘theory of mind?’ Why not call it ‘empathizing?’

Evidently, ‘theory of mind’ and ‘empathizing’ are related, for one might experience empathy if one can imagine how it feels to be in the same difficult situation that another person has to endure. And we might say that if you can imagine being in that same difficult situation, then you must, by definition, have a theory of mind. Nevertheless, ‘theory of mind’ and ‘empathizing’ are not the same. ‘Theory of mind’ refers to an intellectual feat, the ability to calculate what another person is thinking, feeling or perceiving. ‘Empathizing’, in contrast, has connotations associated with affective functioning. To illustrate, a toddler might empathize when in the company of another child who is crying because they hurt themselves or became scared of something. The observing toddler might herself cry in a way that resonates with the child she is observing and this behaviour probably deserves to be called ‘empathy’, but it does not necessarily follow that the toddler has calculated what the other...

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