Making minds

Making minds: The shaping of human minds through social context. Ed. by Petra Hauf and Friedrich Försterling. (Benjamins current topics 4.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2007. Pp. ix, 275. ISBN 9789027222343. $143 (Hb).

Reviewed by Omaima M. Ayoub, Richard J. Daley College

The eighteen papers in this volume take an interdisciplinary approach to the question of to what extent the mind is socially constructed. More specifically, this volume focuses on how an individual’s mental, psychological, and behavioral dispositions are shaped by the way he perceives himself understood and treated by others. Furthermore, the contributors, from the fields of philosophy, psychology, and ethology, contend that the social environment has a strong impact not only on mental contents such as beliefs, motives, and attitudes, but also on psychological and mental structures such as self-consciousness, traits, talents, and abilities.

The opening chapter, ‘Of minds and mirrors: An introduction to the social making of minds’ by Wolfgang Prinz, Friedrich Försterling, and Petra Hauf, outlines the principles that underlie the mechanisms involved in the social construction of the mind. Martin Kusch’s ‘How minds and selves are made: Some conceptual preliminaries’ offers a conceptual analysis of these mechanisms. In ‘Dynamics of social coordination’, Robin R. Vallacher, Andrzej Nowak, and Michal Zochowski describe social coordination between individuals in close relationships, and present a model that captures the emergence, maintenance, and disruption of this coordination. Mark Snyder and Olivier Klein’s ‘Construing and constructing others: On the reality and the generality of the behavioral confirmation scenario’, focuses on the role of the behavioral confirmation phenomenon in shaping the social perceptions of perceivers, targets, and outside observers. Along the same lines, William B. Swann’s ‘The self and identity negotiation’ examines the causes and consequences of self-verification (i.e. the tendency for targets to make perceivers verify their self-views). In ‘Social reality makes the social mind: Self-fulfilling prophecy, stereotypes, bias, and accuracy’, Lee Jussim, Kent D. Harber, Jarret T. Crawford, Thomas R. Cain, and Florette Cohen argue that social psychology’s emphasis on the biased, erroneous, and inaccurate perception of social perceivers creates a deformed social reality.

In ‘How to do things with logical expressions: Creating collective value through co-ordinated reasoning’, Denis Hilton, Gaëlle Villejoubert, and Jean-François Bonnefon contend that logical expressions have performative functions that enable speakers to perform particular acts and state certain propositions. Sandra Graham’s ‘Attributions and peer harassment’ uses attribution theory to examine how peer harassment influences the way victims think of themselves. In a similar vein, Kurt Hahlweg’s ‘The shaping of individuals’ mental structures and dispositions by others: Findings from research on expressed emotion’ outlines the history of expressed emotions in schizophrenic patients and presents evidence for the relationship between family expressed emotions and mood disorders in those patients. In ‘Ostracism: The making of the ignored and excluded mind’, Kipling D. Williams and Jonathan Gerber examine the consequences of ostracism (i.e. being ignored and excluded) on neurophysiological, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral levels. In ‘Self processes in interdependent relationships: Partner affirmation and the Michelangelo phenomenon’, Caryl E. Rusbult, Madoka Kumashiro, Shevaun L. Stocker, Jeffrey L. Kirchner, Eli J. Finkel, and Michael K. Coolsen review theoretical and empirical research conducted on the Michelangelo phenomenon, which refers to the manner in which close partners shape one another’s dispositions, values, and behavioral tendencies.

In ‘Constructing perspectives in the social making of minds’, Jeremy I. M. Carpendale, Charlie Lewis, Ulrich Müller, and Timothy P. Racine focus on the development of joint attention in infants and its relation to language development, which may pave the way for social development. Lucie H. Salwiczek and Wolfgang Wickler’s ‘The shaping of animals’ minds’ argues that animals’ minds are shaped throughout several social processes. Similarly, Josep Call’s ‘Chimpanzees are sensitive to some of the psychological states of others’ suggests that chimpanzees can interpret the perceptions and actions of human experimenters. In ‘The understanding of own and others’ actions during infancy: “You-like-me” or “me-like-you”?’, Petra Hauf and Wolfgang Prinz examine the bidirectional nature of social interaction during infancy. In ‘Experiencing contingency and agency: First step toward self-understanding in making a mind?’, Jacqueline Nadel, Ken Prepin, and Mako Okanda examine the

development of action understanding in preverbal infants. György Gergely and Gergely Csibra’s ‘The social construction of the cultural mind: Imitative learning as a mechanism of human pedagogy’ contends that the selective interpretive nature of early imitative learning can be seen as a result of the assumptions built into the infant’s pedagogical stance, which leads to the efficient transmission of cultural knowledge. Finally, in ‘File change semantics for preschoolers: Alternative naming and belief understanding’, Josef Perner and Johannes L. Brandl develop a new theory of cognitive changes in four-year-old children, by examining the reasons alternative naming emerges at this age.