Narratives, culture, and folk psychology

Anika Fiebich

pp. 135-149

In this paper, I aim to determine to what extent contemporary cross-cultural and developmental research can shed light on the role that narrative practices might play in the development of folk psychology. In particular, I focus on the role of narrative practices in the development of false belief understanding, which has been regarded as a milestone in the development of folk psychology. Second, I aim to discuss possible cognitive procedures that may underlie successful performance in false belief tasks. Methodologically, I distinguish between two kinds of narrative practices: "mentalistic narrative practice' (which involves an explicit reference to another person's mental states), and "behavioral-contextual narrative practice' (which involves an explicit reference to the (normative) behavior of another person in a specific socio-situational context). Whereas the former is more prevalent in Western cultures than in Eastern cultures, the latter is predominantly used by members of Eastern cultures. Mentalistic narrative practices correlate with cultural divergences in the development of false belief understanding throughout ontogeny but do not seem to play the key role. The analysis shows that (i) conceptual change and the acquisition of mental state terms is essential for passing the false belief task, and that (ii) theory is likely to be the cognitive mechanism involved here such as proposed by Theory Theory. However, Hutto's Narrative Practice Hypothesis trumps over Theory Theory to account for the varieties and ambiguities people typically meet when understanding each other in everyday life.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/s11097-014-9378-7

Full citation:

Fiebich, A. (2016). Narratives, culture, and folk psychology. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 15 (1), pp. 135-149.

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