The need to explain behavior: Predicting, explaining, and the social function of mental state attribution

According to both the traditional model of folk psychology and the social intelligence hypothesis, our folk psychological notions of belief and desire developed in order to make better predictions of behavior, and the fundamental role for our folk psychological notions of belief and desire are for making more accurate predictions of behavior (than predictions made without appeal to folk psychological notions). My strategy in this paper is to show that these claims are false. I argue that we need not appeal to mental states to make predictions of many behaviors, and I will offer a positive account of how we might go about predicting intentional behavior. Finally, I suggest that taken together, the critique of traditional folk psychology along with the alternative account of our predictive practices leads to a new hypothesis. While it may be true that mental state concepts developed in response to social-environmental pressures, I suggest that this pressure was more likely the need to explain behavior, rather than the need to predict it.
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