Review of Philosophy and Psychology

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 141–162 | Cite as

Two Systems for Mindreading?

  • Peter Carruthers


A number of two-systems accounts have been proposed to explain the apparent discrepancy between infants’ early success in nonverbal mindreading tasks, on the one hand, and the failures of children younger than four to pass verbally-mediated false-belief tasks, on the other. Many of these accounts have not been empirically fruitful. This paper focuses, in contrast, on the two-systems proposal put forward by Ian Apperly and colleagues (Apperly & Butterfill, Psychological Review, 116, 953–970 2009; Apperly, 2011; Butterfill & Apperly, Mind & Language, 28, 606–637 2013). This has issued in a number of new findings (Apperly et al., Psychological Science, 17, 841–844 2006a; Back & Apperly, Cognition, 115, 54–70 2010; Qureshi et al., Cognition, 117, 230–236 2010; Samson et al., Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 36, 1255–1266 2010; Schneider et al., Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 141, 433–438 2012a, Psychological Science, 23, 842–847 2012b, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 141, 433–438 2014a, Psychological Science, 23, 842–847 2014b; Surtees & Apperly, Child Development. 83, 452–460 2012; Surtees et al., British Journal of Developmental Psychology 30, 75–86 2012, Cognition, 129, 426–438 2013; Low & Watts, Psychological Science, 24, 305–311 2013; Low et al., Child Development, 85, 1519–1534 2014). The present paper shows that the theoretical arguments offered in support of Apperly’s account are nevertheless unconvincing, and that the data can be explained in other terms. A better view is that there is just a single mindreading system that exists throughout, but which undergoes gradual conceptual enrichment through infancy and childhood. This system can be used in ways that do, or do not, draw on executive resources (including targeted searches of long-term memory) and/or working memory (such as visually rotating an image to figure out what someone else sees).


Conceptual Change Propositional Attitude Incremental Learning Conceptual Primitive Approximate Number System 
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.



I am grateful to Suilin Lavelle, Evan Westra, and two anonymous referees for their comments on an earlier draft of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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