University of Oulu

Bosco FM, Tirassa M and Gabbatore I (2018) Why Pragmatics and Theory of Mind Do Not (Completely) Overlap. Front. Psychol. 9:1453. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01453

Why pragmatics and theory of mind do not (completely) overlap

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Author: Bosco, Francesca M.1,2; Tirassa, Maurizio1; Gabbatore, Ilaria1,3
Organizations: 1Department of Psychology, University of Turin
2Neuroscience Institute of Turin (NIT), University of Turin
3Faculty of Humanities, University of Oulu
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Frontiers Media, 2018
Publish Date: 2018-10-05


Aim of the paper is to discuss the extent to which pragmatics, i.e., the ability to use language and other expressive means to convey meaning in a specific interactional context, overlaps with Theory of Mind (ToM), i.e., the ability to ascribe mental states to oneself and the others. We present empirical data available in the current literature concerning the relation between these two faculties, with specific reference to the developmental and clinical domains. Part of the literature we take into account appears to show that ToM does correlate with pragmatic ability; however, other studies appear to show that pragmatic ability alone cannot explain the empirical differences of performance across different kinds of pragmatic tasks, and therefore that another, at least partially different faculty is required to account for human communication. We argue that to conceive pragmatics as a sort of subcomponent of ToM, and thus to conflate or reduce the notion of pragmatics into the (wider) notion of ToM, is not theoretically correct and a possible cause of methodological confusion in the relevant empirical research. It thus turns out to be necessary that the two faculties be investigated with separate theories as well as different experimental tasks.

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Series: Frontiers in psychology
ISSN: 1664-1078
ISSN-E: 1664-1078
ISSN-L: 1664-1078
Volume: 9
Article number: 1453
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01453
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 515 Psychology
Funding: The research was funded by Ministero dell’Istruzione dell’Università e della Ricerca (MIUR): Progetti di Ricerca di Rilevante Interesse Nazionale (PRIN) 2017. Project “The Interpretative Brain: Understanding and Promoting Pragmatic Abilities across Lifespan and in Mental Illness” project code 201577HA9M.
Copyright information: © 2018 Bosco, Tirassa and Gabbatore. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.