Seeing mental states: An empirical approach to the problem of mental states observability
Is it possible to perceive others’ mental states? Are mental states visible in others’ behavior? In contrast to the traditional view that mental states are hidden away and not directly accessible to perception, a phenomenologically motivated account of social cognition has emerged in the recent years: direct social perception. However, despite the numerous articles published defending (and critiquing) direct perception, researchers have made little progress in articulating the conditions under which direct perception of others’ mental states is possible. In this talk I will propose an empirically anchored approach to the observability of others’ mentality – not just in the weak sense of discussing relevant empirical evidence for and against the phenomenon of interest, but more specifically in the stronger sense of identifying an experimental strategy for measuring the observability of mental states and articulating the conditions under which they are observable.I will conclude by reframing the problem of direct perception in terms of establishing a definable and measurable relationship between movement features and perceived mental states.