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The Mind Club

Who Thinks, What Feels and Why It Matters

By Daniel M. Wegner and Kurt Gray
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The Mind Club by Daniel M. Wegner and Kurt Gray

The Mind Club (2016) is all about how we perceive beings as having a mind or not, and how this determination affects our moral judgments. These blinks explain what constitutes a mind as well as how and why we perceive minds the way we do.

Key idea 1 of 6

Minds are defined by two traits – but not all minds act the same way.

You’re part of a special club and you might not even know it. Chances are your neighbor and cat are as well, but your smartphone isn’t – at least not yet. This club is called the Mind Club, and it’s the group of all creatures considered to have a mind.

So, who qualifies?

Well, the authors conducted several studies in which participants were asked about the mental characteristics of various beings: a robot, a CEO, a family dog, a dead person and so on. They found that people generally attribute a mind to beings with two specific traits.

The first is agency, or the ability to think, act in a planned manner and control oneself. The second is the ability to experience emotions like happiness, to be conscious and to feel physical sensations, like hunger.

It’s that simple; if someone has these abilities, they’re in the Mind Club. But once in the Mind Club, people can be characterized by the relative strength of their agency and experience.

For instance, if you’re primarily characterized by your propensity for rational action, then you fit into the group of thinking doers. A prime example of this group are the CEOs of big corporations; they are generally considered to be thinking doers since they wield lots of power and have engaged in loads of planned action to get to where they are.

On the other side of the spectrum are the vulnerable feelers, those who primarily feel and experience, but are less apt when it comes to effective action.

Babies belong in this category. If they’re threatened and experience fear, they can’t plan to defend themselves and, therefore, their only response is to cry.

But these types aren’t immutable. A CEO could turn into a vulnerable feeler if, say, an illness rendered him entirely helpless.

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