Philosophical Studies

, Volume 175, Issue 5, pp 1217–1241 | Cite as

Character and theory of mind: an integrative approach

  • Evan WestraEmail author


Traditionally, theories of mindreading have focused on the representation of beliefs and desires. However, decades of social psychology and social neuroscience have shown that, in addition to reasoning about beliefs and desires, human beings also use representations of character traits to predict and interpret behavior. While a few recent accounts have attempted to accommodate these findings, they have not succeeded in explaining the relation between trait attribution and belief-desire reasoning. On my account, character-trait attribution is part of a hierarchical system for action prediction, and serves to inform hypotheses about agents’ beliefs and desires, which are in turn used to predict and interpret behavior.


Character Trait attribution Theory of mind Mindreading Bayesian predictive coding 



I would like to thank Peter Carruthers, Georges Rey, Andrew Knoll, Joseph Jebari, and Charles Starkey for comments on drafts of this paper, and Julius Schönherr, Moonyong Song, Shen Pan, Yichi Zhang, Aida Roige Mas, Kalewold Hailu Kalewald, and Casey Enos for helpful discussion. This research was supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Fellowship (#752-2014-0035).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyThe University of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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