Lisa Zunshine deposited Mindreading and Social Status in the group GS Prose Fiction on MLA Commons 2 years, 10 months ago
Would you like to get better at mindreading (i.e., at inferring people’s beliefs, desires, and intentions, based on their behavior)? As it turns out, all you would have to do is lower your relative social status. Studies have shown that people in weaker social positions engage in more active and perceptive mindreading than do people in stronger social positions. (In fact, those in superior social position may assert their status by refusing to read mental states of others.) This essay shows that writers can intuitively manipulate their characters’ sociocognitive complexity, by either following or subverting these real-life dynamics, often figured along the lines of class, race, and gender.