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Selected Books by Edmund Blair Bolles

  • Galileo's Commandment: 2500 Years of Great Science Writing
  • The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
  • Einstein Defiant: Genius vs Genius in the Quantum Revolution

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J. Goard

Wait, I wasn't reading carefully enough.

WHAT did Stephen Anderson make a joke about not being sure subjacency offered?
Just a passing moment in Anderson's presentation. He wondered whether there really was a survival advantage in having subjacency.

J. Goard

I guess you didn't get my subjacency joke.

Saw an interesting example at Pharyngula a moment ago:

Kent Hovind, who many of us are enjoying the sensation of seeing him slip from our memories as he cools his heels in prison for tax fraud

As predicted, the author did not omit the him that's linked to who. I, however, would find that pretty natural, although I find his lack of a trace for who a little disorienting.

I suspect most cognitive linguists would agree with me that most "subjacency" effects are largely a consequence of our working memory limitations. The selective advantages of that, although not dubious, are interesting.

Adrian Morgan

In my opinion, the term "theory of mind" is used so broadly that there is surely little that all the cognitive functions lumped under that label have in common.

Here you're mostly talking about the ability to discern someone's current thoughts by observing their behaviour. But even taking emotion, attention, intention and belief together, that is only one aspect of theory of mind.

Another aspect, different from the above in two dimensions, is the ability to discern not a person's current thoughts but the thoughts they would have in some hypothetical situation, and to do so not by observing their behaviour but by keeping track of the information they are exposed to.

We all do that when blogging, for example, if we review our own posts from a hypothetical reader's perspective and try to decide whether the thoughts we wish to share are evident from our words alone, or whether an attempt at (say) humour will be lost on someone who hasn't shared our private experiences.

I give that example just to show the diversity of things we might mean when we talk about theory of mind. I'm sceptical that these things have as much in common as people discussing theory of mind as a coherent cognitive function often seem to imply.

It's also worth pointing out that humans are not as good at it as we imagine ourselves to be. One doesn't have to look very far to find answers to the question: "vision is to an optical illusion as theory of mind is to what".

J. Goard


Heh, yeah. I was just talking with a friend about how easy it is for many guys to think that a girl who smiles a lot when she talks with them really wants something more, right away. TOM fail.

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