Under influence

Abstract

In many circumstances we tend to assume that other people believe or desire what we ourselves believe or desire. This has been labeled 'egocentric bias.' This is not to say that we systematically fail to understand other people and forget that they can have a different perspective. If it were the case, then it would be highly difficult, if not impossible, to communicate, cooperate or compete with them. In those situations, we need to take the other person's perspective and to inhibit our own. But can the other's perspective furtively intrude even when no reason seems to require it, or even when it is detrimental for us? We shall see a series of evidence of what has been called altercentric bias (Samson et al., 2010; Apperly, 2011): other people's beliefs can unduly influence us even when they are wrong. At first sight, altercentric bias questions 1st person priority. In particular, it may appear as incompatible with simulation-based accounts of 3rd person mindreading. We shall argue, on the contrary, that the simulationist framework enables confusions between self and others that go both ways: taking one's beliefs for the other's beliefs (egocentric bias) and vice-versa, taking the other's beliefs for one's beliefs (altercentric bias). We shall then see how the risk of such confusion may be disadvantageous from an evolutionary perspective, questioning thus the evolutionary plausibility of the simulation theory

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Hugo Mercier
Institut Jean Nicod

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