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Department of Psychology


Publication details for Professor Charles Fernyhough

Meins, E., Fernyhough, C. & Harris-Waller, J. (2014). Is mind-mindedness trait-like or a quality of close relationships? Evidence from descriptions of significant others, famous people, and works of art. Cognition 130(3): 417-427.

Author(s) from Durham


The four studies reported here sought to explore the nature of the construct of mind-mindedness. In Study 1, involving 37 mothers of 5- to 8-year-old children, mothers’ verbal mind-minded descriptions of their children were positively correlated with their mind-minded descriptions of their current romantic partner. Participants in Studies 2 (N = 114), 3 (N = 173), and 4 (N = 153) were young adults who provided written descriptions of: a close friend and their current romantic partner (Study 2); two specified famous people, two works of art, and a close friend (Study 3); a specified famous person, a famous person of the participant’s choice, and a close friend (Study 4). Study 2 obtained paper-and-pen written descriptions, whereas participants completed descriptions in electronic format in Studies 3 and 4. Mind-minded descriptions of friends and partners were positively correlated, but there was no relation between mind-minded descriptions of a friend and the tendency to describe famous people or works of art in mind-minded terms. Levels of mind-mindedness were higher in descriptions of friends compared with descriptions of famous people or works of art. Administration format was unrelated to individuals’ mind-mindedness scores. The results suggest that mind-mindedness is a facet of personal relationships rather than a trait-like quality.