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Title: How the Mind Explains Behavior
Subtitle: Folk Explanations, Meaning, and Social Interaction
Written By: Bertram F. Malle
Series Title: Bradford Books

In this provocative monograph, Bertram Malle describes behavior
explanations as having a dual nature--as being both cognitive and social
acts--and proposes a comprehensive theoretical model that integrates the
two aspects. When people try to understand puzzling human behavior, they
construct behavior explanations, which are a fundamental tool of social
cognition. But, Malle argues, behavior explanations exist not only in the
mind; they are also overt verbal actions used for social purposes. When
people explain their own behavior or the behavior of others, they are using
the explanation to manage a social interaction--by offering clarification,
trying to save face, or casting blame. Malle's account makes clear why
these two aspects of behavior explanation exist and why they are closely
linked; along the way, he illustrates the astonishingly sophisticated and
subtle patterns of folk behavior explanations.

Malle begins by reviewing traditional attribution theories and their
simplified portrayal of behavior explanation. A more realistic portrayal,
he argues, must be grounded in the nature, function, and origins of the
folk theory of mind--the conceptual framework underlying people's grasp of
human behavior and its connection to the mind. Malle then presents a theory
of behavior explanations, focusing first on their conceptual structure and
then on their psychological construction. He applies this folk-conceptual
theory to a number of questions, including the communicative functions of
behavior explanations, and the differences in explanations given for self
and others as well as for individuals and groups. Finally, he highlights
the strengths of the folk-conceptual theory of explanation over traditional
attribution theory and points to future research applications.

Bertram Malle is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and
the Institute for Cognitive and Decision Sciences at the University of
Oregon. He is the editor of Intentions and Intentionality: Foundations of
Social Cognition (MIT Press, 2001).

Publication Year: 2004
Publisher: MIT Press
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Linguistic Field(s): Psycholinguistics
Cognitive Science
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Format: Hardback
ISBN: 0262134454
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 328
Prices: U.S. $ 38