Why pragmatics and theory of mind do not (completely) overlap
Bosco, Francesca M.; Tirassa, Maurizio; Gabbatore, Ilaria
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
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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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