Review of Philosophy and Psychology

, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 371–393 | Cite as

Folk Psychology, Consciousness, and Context Effects

  • Adam AricoEmail author


Traditionally, the philosophical study of Folk Psychology has focused on how ordinary people (i.e., those without formal training in academic fields like Psychology, Cognitive Science, Philosophy of Mind, etc.) go about attributing mental states. Those working in this tradition have tended to focus primarily on intentional states, like beliefs and desires. Recently, though a body of work has emerged in the growing field of Experimental Philosophy that focuses on folk attributions of mental states that are not paradigmatically considered intentional. This emerging discussion is concerned with figuring out how (and whether) ordinary people go about attributing mental states of qualitative experience, or what philosophers might call states of phenomenal consciousness. This paper briefly describes some of the primary works in the existing experimental philosophy literature and presents new experimental data that weigh on those hypotheses. Finally, it offers a cognitive model of the processes underlying attributions of mental states, called the Agency Model.


Phenomenal State Folk Psychology Phenomenal Consciousness Minimal Pair Phenomenal Experience 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The author would like to thank Sara Bernstein for her encouragement and support in pursuing this project, as well as Mike Bruno, Bryce Huebner, Uriah Kriegel, Edouard Machery, Justin Sytsma, and especially Joshua Knobe and Shaun Nichols. Thanks as well to the audiences at the 2008 Tucson Roundtable on Experimental Philosophy and the 2007 Meeting of the Society of Philosophy and Psychology, to the University of Arizona’s Department of Cognitive Science for their 2008 Spring Research Fellowship, and, finally, to the Earhart Foundation for providing financial support in the form of a H.B. Earhart Graduate Fellowship.


  1. Arico, A., B. Fiala, R. Goldberg, and S. Nichols. Submitted. The Folk Psychology of Consciousness.Google Scholar
  2. Augustine. 1995. Against the Academicians; The Teacher. King, P. (trans.). Indianapolis: Hackett.Google Scholar
  3. Bloom, P., and C. Veres. 1999. The perceived intentionality of groups. Cognition 71: B1–B9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. DeRose, K. 1999. Contextualism: An Explanation and Defense. in Greco, J. and Sosa, E. ed., The Blackwell Guide to Epistemology. Blackwell Publishers, pp. 187–205.Google Scholar
  5. Gallagher, S. 2005. How the Body Shapes the Mind. Oxford: Clarendon.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Goldman, A. 1989. Interpretation Psychologized. Mind and Language, 4 pp. 161–185; reprinted in Davies, M. and Stone T. (eds.). 1995. Folk Psychology: The Theory of Mind Debate. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  7. Gopnik, A., and A. Meltzoff. 1997. Words, Thoughts and Theories. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  8. Gordon, R. 1986. Folk Psychology as Simulation. Mind and Language, 1 pp. 158–171; reprinted in Davies, M. and Stone T. (eds.). 1995. Folk Psychology: The Theory of Mind Debate. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  9. Gray, H., K. Gray, and D. Wegner. 2007. Dimensions of Mind Perception. Science 315(5812): 619.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Heal, J. 1986. Replication and Functionalism. in Language, Mind, and Logic. Butterfield, J. (ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; reprinted in Davies, M. and Stone T. (eds.). 1995. Folk Psychology: The Theory of Mind Debate. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  11. Heider, F., and M. Simmel. 1944. An Experimental Study of Apparent Behavior. American Journal of Psychology. 57: 243–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Huebner, B. 2010. Commonsense Concepts of Phenomenal Consciousness: Does Anyone Care About Functional Zombies? Phenomenology and the Cognitice Sciences 9(1):133–155.Google Scholar
  13. Huebner, B., M. Bruno, and H. Sarkissian. 2009. What Does the Nation of China Think About Phenomenal States? Review of Philosophy and Psychology 1(3).Google Scholar
  14. Johnson, S. 2003. Detecting Agents. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 358(1431): 549–559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Johnson, S., Y. Shimizu, and S.-J. Ok. 2007. Actors and actions: The Role of Agent Behavior in Infants’ Attribution of Goals. Cognitive Development 22(3): 310–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Knobe, J., and J. Prinz. 2008. Intuitions about Consciousness: Experimental Studies. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 7(1): 67–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Mill, J.S. 1865. An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy, and of the Principal Philosophical Questions Discussed in His Writings. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts and Green.Google Scholar
  18. Reid, T. 1785. Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man. Edinburgh: Printed for John Bell and G.G.J. and J. Robinson.Google Scholar
  19. Robbins, P., and A. Jack. 2006. The Phenomenal Stance. Philosophical Studies 127: 59–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Sellars, W. 1956. Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind. In Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science vol. 1, ed. H. Feigl and M. Scriven. Minneapolis: University of Minesota Press.Google Scholar
  21. Sinnott-Armstrong, W. 2008. Framing Moral Intuitions. in Moral Psychology, Volume 2. In The Cognitive Science of Morality, ed. W. Sinnott-Armstrong, 47–76. Cambridge: MIT Pres.Google Scholar
  22. Stanley, J. 2005. Knowledge and Practical Interests. New York: OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Sytsma, J., and E. Machery. 2009. How to Study Folk Intuitions about Phenomenal Consciousness. Philosophical Psychology 22(1): 21–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Woodward, A.L. 1998. Infants Selectively Encode the Goal object of an Actor’s Reach. Cognition 69: 1–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Zahavi, D. 2005. Subjectivity and Self-hood: Investigating the First-person Perspective. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

Personalised recommendations