Beyond Theory of Mind: A formal framework for social inference and representation

Joseph Barnby, Gabriele Bellucci, Nitay Alon, Leonhard Schilbach, Chris Frith, Vaughan Bell

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Interpersonal relationships are a central feature of what it is to be human. Theory of Mind (ToM), or mentalising, is the ability to represent the hidden thoughts and beliefs of the self and others to navigate these relationships. However, to date there is no common set of formal principles that can be used to understand interpersonal relationships across context, disorder, and diversity, and in humans and artificial agents. Here we present formal generative principles of social representation and inference as a general research framework that provides a language for expressing falsifiable theories that explain what ToM is, and what it is not. We discuss the state-of-the-art in how this framework accommodates dysfunctional ToM, the neural implementation of ToM, the implications for considering ToM within Artificial Intelligence, and some future directions for the field. This provides an initial computational structure for a wide range of social psychological processes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Review
Publication statusSubmitted - 14 Jan 2024

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