Evidence for evaluations of knowledge prior to belief

AbstractWe investigate the relationship between evaluations of knowledge and belief in human adult theory of mind, and provide evidence that evaluations of knowledge are made without prior evaluations of belief. Our studies find that (1) people can accurately evaluate others’ knowledge before they evaluate their beliefs; (2) this pattern cannot be not explained by pragmatic differences; (3) it occurs cross-linguistically and unlikely to be accounted for by differences in word frequency, and (4) it also generalizes to the larger class of factive and non-factive attitudes (to which knowledge and belief respectively belong). Together, these studies demonstrate that human adults can ascribe knowledge without first ascribing a belief state. More generally, they lend support to the view that knowledge representations are a distinctive and basic way in which we make sense of others’ minds.

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