chapter  7
28 Pages

Did Cain Fail to Represent the Thoughts of Abel Before He Killed Him?: The Relationship Between Theory of Mind and Aggression

WithRobert James Richard Blair

The goal of this chapter is to consider the relationship between theory of mind and antisocial behavior. Specifically, it questions whether representations of the mental states of others are involved in the inhibition of aggression. In short, this chapter considers whether killers, such as Cain, fail to represent the mental states of their victims and whether it is this failure that allows them to harm others. Toward this goal, I first provide a brief description of theory of mind, distinguishing between the neurocognitive architecture that allows the representation of the mental states of others and connected systems that represent the individuals’ theorylike concepts of other individuals’ probable mental states. Second, I briefly describe antisocial behavior and draw a distinction between instrumental and reactive aggression. Third, I consider whether theory of mind, specifically the neurocognitive architecture that allows the representation of other individuals’ mental states, is involved in the inhibition of either instrumental or reactive aggression. Fourth, I consider whether hostile attribution biases in an individual’s theorylike concepts of others’ probable mental states might motivate reactive aggression.