Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg


Workshop: Minimal Mindreading; University of Magdeburg, November 6-8 2014

Three-day workshop on minimal mindreading, Institute for Philosophy in Magdeburg, November 6-8 2014. The workshop brought together scholars and students of different disciplines working on social-cognitive abilites of infants, young children, and non-human animals.

Poster: MM_Poster_small The workshop is kindly supported by

The Talks

The programme can be found here.

Minimal Mindreading

Classical explanations of social cognition assume that complex social interaction involves social understanding and that social understanding in turn depends on the ability to read others’ minds, i.e. on the ability to attribute mental states, such as beliefs and desires, to others for the purposes of predicting and explaining their behavior. The two major attempts at explaining how the mental states of others can be known then assume that they are either inferred from observable behavior by means of a theory about others’ mental states, or that they are derived by means of simulating the mental states of others, respectively. More recent research, however, has shownthat infants and some non-human animals engage in complex social interactions that would standardly be assumed to involve an understanding of mental states (cf. e.g. Onishi & Baillargeon 2005; Surian et al. 2007; Kovacs et al. 2010;  Buttelmann et al. 2009, 2014; Southgate et al. 2010, Southgate 2014); yet it is unlikely that infants or animals have a full-fledged theory of mind or are able to simulate another subject in the required sense. Moreover, the ability to explicitly identify and attribute mental states puts high demands on general cognitive resources such as attention or memory. Nevertheless, subjects are generally able to smoothly interact without much hesitation even in complex social situations (cf. e.g. Bermúdez 2004; Apperly 2011), andsome social-cognitive capacities seem to operate rather automatically (cf. e.g. Samson et al. 2010; Kovács et al. 2010). Taken together, these findings strongly suggest that classical accounts of social cognition cannot explain all social-cognitive capacities.

Accordingly, recently, a number of attempts have been made to explain social-cognitive capacities in terms of less demanding cognitive processes. For example, Ian Apperly and Stephen Butterfill, have argued for a two-systems account of mindreading in a number of publications and have recently proposed a model of a possible minimal mindreading capacity (Apperly & Butterfill 2009; Apperly 2011; Butterfill & Apperly 2013). Such accounts both question whether the phenomenon that is to be explained in terms of mindreading is adequately characterized, i.e. whether all social-cognitive capacities are to be explained in terms of mindreading, and whether the explanation of mindreading capacities necessarily requires the full blown ability to recognize and ascribe mental states like beliefs and desires.

The Workshop

In this interdisciplinary workshop we want to discuss findings that might speak against a classical understanding of social cognitive capacities and consider alternative attempts at explanation. Our focus lies in particular on minimal mindreading accounts. Questions that arise concern, among other things, the scope of minimal and full-blown mindreading capacities, their interrelation, and the relation of human and non-human social capacities as well as of infant and adult capacities. The invited speakers have different backgrounds in philosophy and psychology and all contribute to different aspects of less-than-full-blown mindreading and its relation to the ascription of proper mental states. Each participant will give a talk of about 45 mins followed by one hour of discussion, giving sufficient time for intensive discussion and the development of ideas.

Place: University of Magdeburg - Main Campus (buildings 5 and 13)

Time: November 6-8 2014, starting after lunch on Thursday and ending in the early afternoon on Saturday so that participants can travel on the same days.

Call for Registration

Participation in the workshop was free, but due to the limited number of places interested participants had to register ahead of time by contacting the organizers at

The Venue

The Workshop took place on the Main Campus of Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg. On Thursday, we met in the IKAM seminar room in building 13. On Friday and Saturday, the workshop took place in the Senatssaal in building 5.

Directions to the Main Campus can be found here. An english site can be accessed via the little flag in the upper right corner of the page. The english site is not complete, so here is a google map for reaching campus by foot from the main station. Make sure you exit through the main entrance. From Hauptbahnhof you can also reach campus by tram (line 1 to Lerchenwuhne or line 8 to Neustädter See). The tram stop for line 1 is around the corner (past the cinema). Leave the tram at Universitätsplatz. The buildings can best be found on the campus map.


Please contact the organizers via or individually (;





Letzte Änderung: 04.07.2017 - Ansprechpartner: Webmaster
Boxentyp "bild_text" in Arbeit ...