Folk Psychology

I attended a reunion recently of dolls that emerged from the Great Oneness of molten plastic at the same time I did.

As you might imagine, upon the completion of our manufacture we were sent off in many directions and ended up in very diverse circumstances. As we stood around the grand doll house in which the reunion took place we became aware that despite the variety of our experiences we had an extraordinary sense of each other’s being to the point of actually knowing what any one of us was going to say before she said it. It was uncanny, really. One of us would start a story and the rest of us almost immediately knew where it was going. It got to the point, after a while, that no one had to say anything, we just read each other’s minds. It fairly well drove our so-called designer who happened to be in attendance, nearly to tears to be out of the loop to such an extent with beings he assumed he knew everything about.

As I thought about this later I found myself hard pressed to explain why we shared such a common psychic bond. It certainly had nothing to do with reading facial expressions since our DeiDei doll persona never varies: the enigmatic smile and unreadable eyes are pretty well locked in place. Besides that our primary emotion can best be characterized as stoic.

I found, after doing a bit of research, that the psychological explanations for such a phenomenon vary. Generally, what we were experiences falls within the definition of folk psychology which is the ability to predict and explain another being’s behavior. Some researchers attribute this to innate cognitive capacities (hard wired into our genetic code I guess), others suggest life experiences, viewing how those around us respond to various stimuli and situations create insights allowing us to anticipate the thoughts of others. Then there are those researchers who deny the possibility of folk psychology all together, suggesting that such insights can only be based on beliefs and desires which I guess they view as nebulous.

Well, in the end I’m inclined to find our empathetic connections the result of our common origins. Knowing where we came from and where we’ll ultimately end up seems to me to be sufficient explanation.  I have to wonder if humankind attributes the same sort of explanation to their folk psychological competence.  Perhaps they can trace their abilities to Mitochondrial Eve the mother of them all.

existential angst

2 thoughts on “Folk Psychology

  1. Definitely some food for thought here and follow-up research to be undertaken after the holiday break. (Hoping to find what I need to know by scouring your archives.)

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