Mind Perception

How do we know when something has a mind? We're fairly certain that rocks and beer cans don't, of course, and most of us are also convinced that we ourselves have minds--but what about the gray areas? Do robots or frogs or kittens or human embryos have minds? What about people who have such severe brain damage that they are hospitalized in persistent vegetative states? Questions like these can be puzzling to philosophers, but they are answered in a practical sense every day as we each perceive minds in some things, and not in others. The study of mind perception asks how we make this important determination, how we empathize with each other, how we distinquish mental events from physical events, and much more. I have been teaching a course on this topic in hopes of working out some of the basic principles of mind perception.

  • Kozak, M., Marsh, A. A., & Wegner, D. M. (2006). What do I think you're doing? Action identification and mind attribution. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 543-555.
  • Gray, H., Gray, K., & Wegner, D. M. (2007). Dimensions of mind perception. Science, 315, 619. Supportive online material
  • Morewedge, C., Preston, J., & Wegner, D. M. (2007). Timescale bias in the attribution of mind. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93, 1-11.
  • Gray, K., & Wegner, D. M. (2009). Moral typecasting: Divergent perceptions of moral agents and moral patients. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 505-520
  • Gray, K., & Wegner, D. M. (2010). Blaming God for our pain: Human suffering and the divine mind. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 14, 7-16.
  • Waytz, A., Gray, K., Epley, N., & Wegner, D. M. (2010). Causes and consequences of mind perception. Trends in Cognitive Science, 14, 383-388.
  • Gray, K., Jenkins, A. C., Heberlein, A. S., & Wegner, D. M. (2011). Distortions of mind perception in psychopathology. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108(2), 477-479. doi:10.1073/pnas.1015493108.
  • Gray, K., & Wegner, D. M. (2011). To escape blame, don’t be a hero—be a victim. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47, 516-519.
  • Gray, K., Knickman, T. A., & Wegner, D. M. (2011). More dead than dead:  Perceptions of persons in the persistent vegetative state. Cognition, 121, 275-280.