Two uses of folk psychology: Implications for psychological science

Philosophical Psychology 8 (3):375-88 (1995)
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Abstract

This article describes two uses of folk psychology in scientific psychology. Use 1 deals with the way in which folk theories and beliefs are imported into social psychological models on the basis that they exert causal influences on cognition or behavior (regardless of their validity or scientific usefulness). Use 2 describes the practice of mining elements from folk psychology for building an overarching psychological theory that goes beyond common sense (and assumes such elements are valid or scientifically useful). This distinction is then applied to both common practices within psychology and the philosophical arguments concerning the scientific validity of folk psychology. Adopting a social psychological perspective, I argue that (a) the two uses are often conflated in psychology with deleterious consequences; and (b) that the arguments for the elimination of folk psychology as a basis for scientific psychology presented by Churchland and others, are weakened by the failure to attend to this distinction.

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