Show Details

Mind Reading

June 23, 2014

The ability to read someone’s mood or understand what’s on their mind is something that’s learned, according to a new study.



Learning to mind read. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Being social means being able to read minds—not in the sense of having supernatural powers, but in perceiving that a friend has become impatient listening to your story, or something that makes you happy could make someone else sad. University of Oxford Psychologist Cecilia Heyes writes in the journal Science that this ability isn’t innate, like walking, but learned, like reading.

CECILIA HEYES (University of Oxford):

Adults explicitly teach children a culture-specific theory of how the mind works—that’s what we learn at our mother’s knee, and then when we become parents, we pass that on that theory of mind to our own children.


She suggests that autism, in which children have trouble interacting socially, is similar to dyslexia: in both cases, a neurological condition makes it difficult for children to learn a skill that other children master easily. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.