Review of Philosophy and Psychology

, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 369–382

Seeing Agents When we Need to, Attributing Experience When we Feel Like it


DOI: 10.1007/s13164-012-0109-0

Cite this article as:
Hallgren, I. Rev.Phil.Psych. (2012) 3: 369. doi:10.1007/s13164-012-0109-0


Mind attribution may be divided into the subcategories of attribution of agency, associated with moral agency, and attribution of experience and emotion, associated with moral concern and moral patiency (Gray et al. Science 315(5812):619, 2007; Gray et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108(2):477–479, 2011b; Robbins and Jack Philosophical Studies 127(1):59–85, 2006). In this paper I attend to social context and the different psychological needs influencing the different types of mind attribution. A need for social connection drives the attribution of experiences and emotions. The individual’s capacity to regulate emotional reactions is crucial for empathic concern. I further relate differences of mind attribution, attention, and emotional processing, to two different modes of functioning: In an interactive state of mind (comparable to the “second-person perspective” described by Schilbach et al. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, in press), social and emotional cues are attended to; In a detached task-oriented state of mind it may be beneficial to predict the behaviors of others but emotional information may not be attended to. The complexity and plasticity of mind attribution, including the possibility to train attentional mechanisms and regulation of emotions, is promising for the field of moral enhancement.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of ScienceUniversity of GothenburgGöteborgSweden