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Mind Reading

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Summary

The main idea of the article is to discuss the ability to recognize another person's thoughts through communication, which is an essential element of our social life. The article is also discussing the interesting question of how we may figure out what somebody else is thinking about, and how important is this skill in certain kinds of social interactions. Given by nature, an ability to guess others peoples' thoughts and feelings,  is quite common and has been named “everyday mind reading”. It differs from  the term “telepathy,” which implies an extra-sensory perception, has a connection to paranormal phenomena and refers to parapsychological research studies. The article considers interactions in peoples' behavior, not the direct transference of thoughts from one person to another.There is a term for mind reading in psychologyrelated to self-monitoring , which is called “empathic accuracy .” The article refers to psychologist William Ickes from University of Texas at Arlington, who found out that the grade point averages of perceivers were positively related to empathic accuracy, although a subsequent study failed to reproduce this actual effect. He was researching  gender interactions with regard to verbal intelligence and its individual patterns. He also statesthat in modern culture, mind reading ability deteriorates because of the new standards in family life and the structure of interactions between generations living together. In addition, Ickes completely refuted the gender role in mind reading, which is nothing more than just a stereotype. 

The body language and facial expressions are considered to be important aspects of mind reading process. Many of these expressions are recognized on common communication level, and may clearly allow another person to detect their partner’s state or intention. The easiest level to interpret is emotional expression, where people can almost always clearly understand the state of the speaker. From positive emotions to anxiety or anger, these expressions can  clearly indicate the thoughts of other people. These emotional and social intelligence aspects are described by Dr. Dan Siegel in his research of mindsight. He states that it takes a lot of skills to fully understand the feelings of the conversational partner; even the feelings that are not recognized by him or her can well be read. The aspect of closeness  between people, like friendship or close family relation is very important in this respect.

To summarize, the advanced skills that may be developed in a lifetime are not the main aspect in mind reading. The article underlines the importance of ethics in relations and proper reactions to communication partners as the main principles of mind reading.

Analysis

Taking into consideration the main point of the article, the majority of facts mentioned are logical and the researches discussed comprise the core of the main aspects of the “mind reading” term. After reviewing many different psychological studies and researches, we can come to pretty much the same conclusion, meaning that relatives and friends think alike depending on how good they know each other. For example, consoling someone depends on relative aspects first and then on certain skills. Taking into consideration another point of view, one may come to a conclusion that if a person meets somebody for the very first time, it becomes a matter of reading body signals in order to interact appropriately. As stated in Ickes paradigm, there are individual patterns in perceivers’ skills levels, pegged to their high reliability across multiple targets. Having this reliability, one is getting to the point of why certain people are more accurate than others.

Empathic accuracy relates to the individual’s capacity to identify feelings, intentions and thoughts of other people. It closely aligns with the term of mind reading. Despite the known wisdom, women do not usually perform better than men on this characteristic. This is especially true when monetary incentives are promised for certain levels of accuracy. Besides, empathic accuracy usually, but not always, enhances satisfaction in relationships.

I would not support the thought concerning gender differences in empathic accuracy. Despite the fact that sometimes these differences occur, the explanation is better to be found in individual traits of people, rather than gender differences.

Babies start “mind reading” earlier than it was thought.  Even at the age of two, they may guess what people may be thinking about or are about to do based on emotions and certain situation. The anthropologist H. Clark Barrett, from the University of California states that findings may open up many social abilities that make us different from our closely related species, like chimpanzees. Although the study was conducted in the form of false belief quiz, these were cognitive performing tasks that younger children can do, but the primates cannot. Humans are pretty good at deducing mental states of other people, like their desires, emotions, and their knowledge. In such a way, this skill may play very important role in many cultural contacts and social learning. These findings indicate that children develop a mind-reading ability few years earlier than previously thought, and this development is quite the same in various cultures. The findings also prove that this skill is quite universal and that other cultural differences may have distorted the previous conclusions.

The multiple births children can “read” each other’s minds better, as they spend together much time and are usually brought up knowing their friends and sharing the same environment with them. But what about children that have been separated at birth? How they may know what the other one likes, and may finish a sentence for the other after many years of separation? The answer can probably be found at the point of genetic specifics and possible similarities on family related level.

There are several theories about the mind reading and how it is accomplished. “Supernatural” is the first one; it is based on mind’s psychic activity. “Scientific” way is the second one, where the neuroscientists research the way human brain works, and how the brain waves are connected to the thought process. “Psychological”  is the third theory which is actually linked to the idea of everyone’s ability of reading minds, which is true in case they are able to comprehend different aspects of the person’s character,  how he can behave in a society, etc.

Taking into consideration the mindstream of reality, it may be interpreted using two ways - whether your thoughts are controlling the person or the person is reading your thoughts - both are true and neither is true, person’s actions and your own thoughts are one mindstream of reality. But this term refers more to the Buddhist philosophy and cannot be considered as an aspect for studies.

There are a number of studies on this subject, but these always differ. Many of the aspects lose their sense despite the fact that the parameters of researches have no changes in structure. For example, the motivation to succeed at empathic accuracy tasks has been linked to gender roles that typically differ for women and men. However, the distribution of women’s and men’s adherence to these roles overlaps to the extent when women describe themselves as concerned for others.

Conclusion

Most of hypotheses were generally confirmed and internally replicated. But due to the social life changes and new aspects, we will definitely get different results on the mind reading studies making same tests in future. The current studies provide one piece of the puzzle of how people understand other peoples’ minds, by pointing to the positive relation between communication and empathic accuracy. Understanding what consistently predicts empathic accuracy is a challenging task. Differential ability and differential motivations of each individual are so unique that developing a clear system does not seem realistic for now. As the article states, the best connection between people may happen only through the interaction and relation to each other, being used to specifics of the person. 

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