Can we perceive mental states?

Eleonore Neufeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, I defend Non-Inferentialism about mental states, the view that we can perceive some mental states in a direct, non-inferential way. First, I discuss how the question of mental state perception is to be understood in light of recent debates in the philosophy of perception, and reconstruct Non-Inferentialism in a way that makes the question at hand—whether we can perceive mental states or not—scientifically tractable. Next, I motivate Non-Inferentialism by showing that under the assumption of the widely-accepted Principle of Cognitive Economy, any account that treats mental state perception as an inferential process commits itself to an unrealistically inefficient picture of our cognitive architecture. Drawing on research in cognitive science, I will then show that my Non-Inferentialist view receives direct support by the available empirical evidence. I conclude that there is no psychologically relevant sense in which perception of mental states differs from paradigmatic cases of perception, such as the perception of ordinary objects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2245-2269
Number of pages25
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Mental state perception
  • Mindreading
  • Non-Inferentialism
  • Social cognition
  • Social perception
  • Theory of Mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • General Social Sciences


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