According to experts, we actually use mind-reading as part of our everyday life, even if we don’t know it. Sputnik spoke with Rachel Clutterbuck, Researcher in Psychology at the University of Bath to find out what exactly mind-reading is and how important it is to research it.
Sputnik: What exactly do we mean, when we talk about mind-reading?
Rachel Clutterbuck: Well, although it sounds like some kind of telepathic ability, what we're really talking about is an everyday social ability, where we understand what other people are thinking. So an example of this could be if you're having a conversation with someone, and you can pick up if they are being sarcastic, that they're saying something different to what they are thinking.
Sputnik: So why is it so important for us to understand what mind-reading is?
Rachel Clutterbuck: Mind-reading is a really important social ability for us. It helps us to have conversations with other people, it helps us to form friendships and have relationships with other people. It's really important for us to understand it, but also it's important for us to understand it for people who have difficulties with mind-reading. So, for example, some autistic people are thought to have difficulties with mind-reading and this can lead to social difficulties, and mental health problems such as feeling lonely and depressed.
Sputnik: Psychological research has shown that women read minds better than men. What reasons could there be for this?
Rachel Clutterbuck: Well, we don't know, the exact reason for this. But it could be that there is maybe a biological difference. Or it might be that the difference is caused by more environmental factors such as our upbringing,
Sputnik: What could long-term research into mind-reading lead to and what benefits could that bring?
Rachel Clutterbuck: We designed a questionnaire that was the main aim of our research. And we hope that this questionnaire could be used to advance our understanding of mind-reading in adults, by enabling us to test lots of people and their mind-reading ability. And we hope this could help us to understand a bit more about where there are differences in mind-reading abilities. So like you pointed out differences between men and women, we might be able to understand a little bit more about that. And in certain clinical conditions, such as autism,
Sputnik: There are a lot of similarities between mind-reading and empathy. How do we differentiate between them?
Rachel Clutterbuck: That's a really good question. Mind-reading and empathy are different, but they are actually very similar. The difference between them is that empathy involves an emotional component. So empathy is understanding what other people are feeling, or sometimes it's actually feeling what they're feeling. Mind-reading, on the other hand, has no emotional component. Mind-reading is understanding what other people are thinking, what they believe are their perspectives. So it's emotion that can separate empathy from mind-reading.
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