Leslie – Gah!

Suppose we start with a representation of the current perceptual situation, for example, this is a banana. This is decoupled to “this is a banana.” Because its normal semantics has been suspended, the expression can be manipulated freely without fear of abusing the normal representational system existing out- side this context. So, for example, it will be possible to trans- form the expression “this is a banana” into “this banana is a telephone” while disregarding its interpretation. An expression like this banana is a telephone could not arise in primary representation. Such nonsense violates the basic design principle of primary representation that it represent in a literal fashion. Decoupling, however, allows such expressions to be treated and worked on as purely formal objects.

(Leslie 417)


This is going to probably be the worst-written post I’ve done yet because this is such a complex writing style.  I have been doing a chronology of the term Theory of Mind so far and have been updating using the Prezi that I mentioned in earlier posts.  But, here goes:

Leslie uses quotation marks and non-quotation marks for a purpose.  The non-quotation marks represent truth and fact.  Therefore, when he says, this is a banana, he means that literally.  But when he uses quotation marks, it is someone saying something, which doesn’t necessarily make it true.  “This is a banana” could be said while holding a cup, but it doesn’t make it true.  But with this, it also doesn’t make it false, the fact that someone is saying it implies that they believe it is a banana.

This is where I feel like I have lost myself.  Let’s see if I can reword this at all.  Saying something does not make it true, but believing something you say is true.  I say, “I like you,” when like means hate to me.  Saying it makes it…grr face!  This still doesn’t make sense.

It makes some assemblage of sense in my head, but I can’t figure out the right words that will help others understand it.  Saying something does not make it true.  If I say, “This color is yellow” when it is actually blue, what i said was not true.  But, what I believe is true.  I believe the color is yellow even though it is actually blue.  Therefore, it is both true and untrue at the same time.  It is true in the sense that it is true that I believe it is yellow, but it is untrue because it is not yellow.

That makes a bit more sense to me, but I’m not sure if it does to anyone else.

So, in that space that saying is believing is pretending, which Leslie says is the precursor and prerequisite of Theory of Mind.

I think he may go on to bring this to autism.  He may point out that people with autism are very literal.  Therefore, using his theory, he might say that there is a disconnect between the true “belief” and the false “truth” (to put it another way, the true “statement” and the false “fact”).  This manifests itself as literality (a word I just made up) where people hear something and do not comprehend that people saying something is partially true.  An example: a person hears the statement, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.”  They imagine that picture and analyze it from a literal standpoint and may point out that money is made out of paper which is made out of trees, therefore, it does grow on trees.

Here’s possibly another way of putting it: the quotation parts are abstract whereas the non-quotation parts are literal.

This was a tough post because this is a complex way of putting a question mark idea.  In some ways, the idea is simple, but in others its really complex.  I think the idea is simple, but the translating it into words that makes it complex.

Ah, whatever, I’m done now!


Leslie, Alan M.  “Pretense and Representation: The Origins of ‘Theory of Mind'” Psychological Review 94.4 (1987): 412*426. EBSCO. Web. 30 Mar 2015.

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