Theory of Mind: Attributing Mental States to Others

How to Play “Among Us”

In this video game, there are two roles: a good team (crew) and a bad team (impostor).

The crew’s goal is to guess who the impostors are and vote them out or complete all work tasks before the bad team can win.  The crew can’t do any harm to other players except through voting, so they need to pay attention during the rounds to figure out who to vote off.  There are some tools to help: every map has an admin table to see how many people are in each room, two maps have security cameras, one map has a sensor log to see who walks over them, and one map has a vitals board to see who died during the round.  Gather clues and use your own detective skills to figure out who is the most suspicious!

The impostors’ goal is to kill the crew until they have the same number of players or to win through time running out on a crisis (sabotage) action.  The best ways to play are to use vents to travel around the map quickly, use crisis actions to confuse the crew (like turning off lights or locking doors), and lying in meetings.  More advanced plays include framing people for kills with good timing and working with your teammate to cover your tracks.  Most players would say that it’s more fun to play as the impostors, but everyone has their own style and can find their own fun strategies to use.


I tried to tackle a common situation, which was to explain a video game to a child.  “Among Us” has meteorically risen in popularity to millions of concurrent players worldwide, within the span of a few months. The game is free to play on phones (a low barrier to entry), so I know that this has happened before and will continue to happen.  The mechanics are very simple, and that’s part of the reason it’s so popular.  There are no twitch reflexes or grand strategies required to win the game.  There is also an element of luck in voting, so it makes for some entertaining moments.  There are some highly complex mechanics that can be used, for example there is a task for inserting a key for engine ignition.  There are 10 key holes and each player sees a different hole to use.  The order of the keys matters because they directly correspond to the order that the players entered the game in.  So that example is something that would not only be needed to explain to kids, but any non-advanced players.  I did see this happen in a YouTube video where the player called an emergency meeting because he “wanted to talk about the keys” and most of the other players were confused.

Like Mermin’s example, this situation happens often in education.  It can be very difficult to explain concepts to people who don’t know the basics, so having to re-frame the concept will challenge your understanding.  I think it would be very difficult to explain subjects like calculus to children, but it would be much easier to bring up examples of cases where algebra can’t solve a problem.  I distinctly remember a time where my classmates thought everyone was going to fail a hybrid chemistry/physics class.  Years later, I realized that the curriculum wasn’t impossible, but the way it was taught to us wasn’t age-appropriate (we were freshmen in high school).  There were too many assumptions made about what we already knew, and the teaching material was overly technical.  I believe that if most students are failing, then it’s not their fault.

Conveying knowledge is really about getting in the mind of your audience and trying to anticipate what might interest them or what might be too out of reach.  That can be done with a lot of practice by talking to people.  I think pop science articles and videos try to achieve that.

Why is the sky blue?


Why is the sky blue? From all the colors possible, why blue? Why not red or purple? Well to start, the sun emits white light, this white light contains all of the colors in the [spectrum] rainbow; yellow, red, orange, green, blue, purple. This is why sometimes after it rains, the rain droplets divide the light into all those colors and form a rainbow, during that stage the sky technically has all the colors. So why is it blue most of the time? Well, every color has a wavelength, like the piece of a puzzle that fits perfectly and makes a specific color separate from the white light when it comes into contact with something, ignoring all the other colors. Every object that has color works with this special feature; sunflowers have a yellow fit, your hair has a fit and grass has a green fit. As you might -or might not- now the sky is made from gases, technically air. The sky is a giant mass of air and the air up in the sky has a special fit too, blue. So when this white light comes down at us from the sun to the surface of the earth, it encounters these gases in the sky, and all of the colors are ignored but blue, which fits like the piece of a puzzle.


Language is a limited tool because reality is not concise nor universal, so language is constrained by preceding knowledge. The more extensive the previous knowledge is, the wider the range of language one can use; the narrower the previous knowledge, the more limited language is, and the greater the effort required to explain the idea. Explaining a topic in which you own bast understanding to a person that has none-to-little idea of what it is about is an example of the limitation of language. If your intention is for the person to grasp the concept of what you are talking about, then you must avoid using terminologies that are exclusive to the topic and find a more adequate vocabulary. Usually, the better the contextual familiarity there is between two or more persons the better the understanding with fewer explanations and less restricted use of language.

When I had to explain why the sky was blue to a kid who probably had no previous knowledge about it, I had to lean towards their perspective while maintaining the original idea I was trying to communicate. I also avoided the use of words like “spectrum “or “atmosphere” and substituted them with others like “rainbow” and “giant mass of air”.  I also used analogies like the color’s wavelengths being similar to the pieces of a puzzle that only “fit” with a certain something to bring out the color. That is probably not the most scientifically accurate explanation, but it properly communicated the idea to someone that had little knowledge on the topic – or I would hope so. Although from the perspective of a real specialist in the topic my knowledge would be seen as faint. And if they were to explain to me more, they too would have to constraint the language they use.


Basics of Photography


To take good pictures, there are three things you need to know: shutter speed, aperture, and iso. These are the three fundamental settings that you can use to change how your picture looks.

Shutter Speed can be described as the amount of time that your camera’s image sensor is exposed to light. In other words, it’s how fast or slow the picture is taken. This is helpful because it gives you the choice of capturing motion in your picture or completely freezing it. Sutter speed can also be used to affect the brightness of your image. A slower shutter speed will make your image brighter, and a faster shutter speed will make your image darker.

The next setting is aperture. The aperture is basically the size of the circular opening in your lens. The size of your aperture affects how much light is let in through your lens. It also affects your depth of field. Depth of field can basically be described as how much of your image is in focus. A smaller depth of field means less of your image will be in focus, and a larger depth of field means more of your image will be in focus.

Lastly, there’s iso. This is the sensitivity to light that is captured by your image sensor. A higher iso is more sensitive to light, making your image brighter, and a lower iso makes your image darker.



Reflection (Limitations of Language)


The major difficulty with this writing is that you don’t get to show your audience what you’re talking about; you can only tell them. I believe that having some pictures of different parts of the camera and caparisons of pictures with different camera settings would have helped tremendously. This way, the reader would be able to see what I’m talking about as they read. Another issue was the word limit. I think that if I had a 500-word limit, I could have explained things more thoroughly and I could have answered some of the questions that I would expect the reader to have.

In terms of how I used language, I almost felt like I was translating things that I would think about in photography terms into more common-person terms, For example, a photographer would never say shutter speed is how fast or slow the picture is taken; they would say something like it’s the length of your exposure.

In order to make things more understandable to the reader, I had to translate the idea of shutter speed from photography terms into normal terms. Although the way a photographer might talk about shutter speed is more accurate or correct, it would be much harder for a non-photographer to understand what the photographer is talking about.

I think the best thing to do is to present the idea or topic in a more normal person language, and then give them the more technically correct term that might be used. This makes it easier for the learner to understand in the beginning, but it also gives them the opportunity to understand more deeply as they progress.

QSR 4: Public Transportation

Public transportation in New York is honestly hard to understand until you use it everyday. There are trains, buses, shuttles, trams, ferries, and railroads. Trains and buses are probably the most used. The way I think about it is that trains go up and down cities. These usually have numbers on them ranging from 1 to 6. If there is a train that goes left to right, it is most likely a shuttle and has a letter attached to it. Buses are a little more local and go left and right within cities and between cities. A tram is used to get to Roosevelt island. It is a lift that takes you alongside the bridge. Railroads can take you outside of what is considered New York City. These are places like Westchester and Long Island. Places like Grand Central Station and Atlantic Station are departure stations for both trains and railroads. Two railroads are Metro North and Long Island Railroad. Lastly, a ferry is mostly used to get to Staten Island. It is a multi-level boat that goes back and forth from Manhattan to Staten Island. You can use public transportation in one way or mix the methods. Coming from school I used to get on the Metro North in Westchester, a railroad train, then get on a train in the Bronx, and then get on a bus in Brooklyn to get home. The system is set up in a way to cover all bases. Of course there is still some walking you might have to do and the fare seems to go up every few years but for most it is more practical and cost efficient than a car. Public transportation is also more eco friendly because it is a method of carpool which uses less fossil fuels per person. 

While writing this, I realized that when I write I automatically change the way I talk to sound more professional. It was hard to keep reminding myself that I was explaining this to a ten year old so I need to be conscious of my word choice. I used terms like left to right instead of horizontally and big instead of multi-level. I also could see how writing about the NYC public transportation system can be a hindrance. I reread my work and honestly I still don’t think the ten year old would feel comfortable using the transit system to go places. Things like maps, pictures, and actually using the systems would probably be most helpful. Not everything can be explained in writing. I do feel like what I wrote is a form of writing up. In my mind I was going through a checklist of things I needed to cover. I feel like in writing I wouldn’t necessarily be doing that. I also think that writing about something that is physical also leads people to write up instead of write. Overall I went through a range of emotions while doing this. At first I had no idea what to talk about, then I needed to pick something that I could sort of dumb down in order for it to be appropriate for a ten year old. Overall I think I did a good job of putting things into words but I definitely think writing is not the best form of explanation in this case. 

Writing Helps Us Think

This past summer, I acquired the skill of making string art. The concept of it is just that, making art with the use of string. A friend of mine starting making a couple pieces and was making money by selling them. I was looking to make some extra money so he showed me the ways of string art. Just by looking at the piece, one might think it is easy because the art looks quite simple. In reality, making string art takes time and precision. The material one needs are: string, nails, paint, primer and a wooden board. First, one must apply primer to the wooden board. Primer is necessary so the paint can appear more pigmented and does not soak into the wood. That will take at least day because you need both sides pigmented. Next, you start painting the wooden board. This takes two days because you should coat the wood twice with paint. It is important to let the paint dry overnight so you can start the nailing process on a dry surface. You then print out a picture of the figure you want to make. You should outline only the outer part of the figure and place dots every half an inch for where you will place the nails. Once you made the dots, tape the picture in the middle of the board and start nailing. When nailing, it is important to note that each nail must be the same, if not close, in height. After you are done nailing, carefully rip the paper out so no pieces are left under the nails. Lastly, you can begin tying the string around the nails. First outline the outer portion and then fill in the inner portion with string. One gets better with practice, just like everything in life. 

Can writing aid us in our thought process? I believe the use of writing can definitely be used as a tool to think with. The words we use when writing trigger thoughts and images in our heads when reading them. When we need to put something together, such as a bed frame, we are given words to instruct us. I gave instructions on the process of string art by only using words. As I read what I have wrote, I can clearly visualize every step because of the words I used. Humans think through language and words, so these words help us organize our thoughts. This is why it is important to be very detailed with your word choice, especially when you are trying to expelling something to a younger person. When trying to explain something to others, a vague explanation will not do the job. Being very detailed and explaining thoroughly will help people visualize the words in their thoughts and execute the task correctly. Language, writing and thinking all go hand-in-hand. They do have a relation between one another because if one is not being used, the others can not be acheived.

The Forehand in Tennis

In tennis an extremely essential part of the game is the “forehand.” When used correctly it can take your game to levels you never thought possible. The forehand is used when the ball is hit to the side of your body you hold the racquet on. As the ball comes closer to you, you want to stand with your chest facing off the court towards facing the ball. This way when the ball is next to you it will be at around stomach level. Once the ball is there you want to start bringing the racket forwards with a straight extended arm until contact is made. When you make contact with the ball, you want to start to flip your wrist giving the ball extra speed and spin. While doing this bend your elbow and bring your arm to the top of your other shoulder. Doing that is extremely important and is called the follow through, it will help you aim the ball getting it over the net. This whole motion with your arm is only half of the process. You also should try and line up arms distance away from the ball bending your knees as you hit the ball. Another something that helps add power to the ball is to step into your shot brining more force into your swing. Once you get good at this you can even start to try and aim for different areas of the court. One way I do this is by trying to look and face the area where I want to hit the ball. Utilizing the forehand in tennis can lead to much improved gameplay.

While writing about the importance of a forehand in tennis I encountered many challenges. I never understood how hard it could be to describe a process to someone using only words. I felt it was close to impossible to explain certain motions like, where to stand and how to move your arm. But we are able to try and make the best of language using descriptive words and sentences. When writing about the forehand I started by explaining where you stand on the court. In doing this I found it easier to describe when you hit the ball. Once I did this I tried using my language to explain when and how you move your arm. To help my audience understand I tried to tell them how each movement effects the outcome of the shot. By using more words and sentences it becomes easier to explain your process. One of the most important aspects in this writing was trying to explain the forehand like it was the first time I ever learnt it. By doing this I connected to the reader and imagined I knew nothing about my topic. After that I was able to use language and descriptive words to help tell them the most I could. In the end I saw how the use of language is limited in describing certain things. You can use words all you want but sometimes they can’t explain every detail of a process. So, when it comes to Mermin I was amazed by how he is able to explain such complicated process, while making them appeal to all readers. In the future to help this process I will use as many descriptive words and sentences to explain my process the most accurately.

QSR4 [Aurie]

When playing soccer, or “football” as the rest of the world calls it, it is crucial to know how to kick a ball properly. Some may say that there is no such thing “All you have to do is wind your leg back and hit the ball thats rolling at you with all your force”. They are wrong. First, lets go over how to kick a ball properly for maximum power/ accuracy. When making contact with the ball, the laces on your shoe or cleat should be the first things to touch the ball. The sweetspot is below the top of the tongue on your shoe, and above your toe-knuckles for lack of a better term (pretty much the middle/ top section of your foot). It is extremely important to remember to lock your ankle, as it keeps the foot stable so that it doesn’t move when making contact with the ball. The foot must control the ball, not vice vera.Getting a 15 foot running start is optimal when preparing to kick the ball, as it will give you enough time to amass enough energy to kick the ball when running. Following through with the shot is also very important as that will help generate more force as your foot makes contact with the ball. Although the method I just provided works for a basic, powerful shot on net, there are many different types of shots that require similar, but different techniques when kicking. To achieve a “hook” or “curved” shot for example, one must hit the ball on the inside of the foot, but slightly turn said foot as the shot is being taken. The foot should be at a 45 degree angle when following through with the shot. Another example is that of a “chip” or “slice”. In order to preform this technique, one must bring the foot down onto the ball without following through that much. One should try to strike the ball under the tip of the shoe, without using the toe. There are many different techniques that can be used to kick a ball, however, the overall form should remain relatively the same to reach an optimal outcome.

The promp states that “there are limitations to how language can access reality” and as humans, “how do we make the best of language to approach something like knowledge”. Now, although there are limitations, I have found that using adjectives/ descriptive words, and details help paint a picture in the readers mind, allowing for a seamless transition of thoughts from one person to another. If I say I saw a bird that was mainly red with a few black feathers sprinkled throughout his mane, and he seemed to be a bit overweight, it would be very easy for the person reading my analysis of the bird to make a mental image in his/ her mind of the exact look of teh creature I was portraying. Similar to the short assessment I just created on how to kick a ball, since I added a good amount of detail to my writing, I made it easier for the reader to create a mental image of what goes into kicking a ball properly. Using terms like “45 degree angle” or my descriptive sentences on where exactly ones foot must connect with the ball, I made it easier for the reader to understand exactly what I was trying to convey. We make the best of language when approaching an idea like knowledge by using descriptions and familiarities that a reader of a passage would be able to understand. There are many limitations to how language can access reality, but by using certain techniques like the ones I listed, those limitations (at times), cease to exist.


Good Things, Take Time.

I have always been interested in different methods of teaching. When I started the RISE Initiative, I had the opportunity to experiment with teaching methods when designing the workshop curriculums. I had the most fun designing the curriculum for our Summer Foundations Program. SFP is a summer mentorship program that aids in the transformation of underprivileged children into professionals adept for survival in the competitive American workforce.   

Something we worked hard into our curriculum was the concept of instant and delayed gratification. This is a hard concept for children to understand and accept because children are born into instant gratification. Their cries are instantaneously answered by their parents. They cry, they are fed. Their needs and wants are attended to as soon as possible. This system becomes a part of their psychology. That is why when children want something, they expect to have it “now”. Although this mentality can help with determination in children, it deters children from the reality of life as an adult.   

Adults never have things handed to them. They must earn them. They must study hard for good grades. They need good grades to graduate with a degree. They need a degree to get a well-paying job. They need to work to feed themselves and their families. The path to successful adulting is one of delayed gratification. Something children fail to understand. Recognizing the importance of teaching children to accept delayed gratification we came up with a gradual gratification system.   

The main tools we used were material prizes such as stickers and candy. During the first couple of weeks, children were rewarded for just arriving to class. Afterward, we shifted to only rewarding when rules were followed correctly. That was then narrowed down to participation. Towards the end of the program, children were only rewarded for productivity and effort. This gradual system allowed for the children to gradually move from instant gratification to delayed gratification.  

This process helped the instructors maintain productivity amongst the students. Through the program, the children became more productive. Students started to understand that to be rewarded they needed to complete the given tasks correctly. This mentality progressed as the tasks they completed became longer and harder. 

Writing about this helped me understand and appreciate this concept more. During the program, this seemed like a way to bribe the students to get work done. However, writing about the process made me think in-depth about the goal that was accomplished. Writing about the gradual gratification system helped me reflect on the long-term benefits of the system. What I found interesting as well is that to get this life lesson across to the students we had to speak their language. We had to use instant gratification to help them understand that they had to earn what they wanted in life. I believe this is a great example of understanding reality using language. Instructors were able to use a nonverbal language to connect with the children and convey a message related to reality. Reading Mermin’s take on writing and writing about this process helped me understand that language is not definitive. This makes me wonder if language is more than reading and writing? What if language is more than just a description of emotions, actions, and thoughts? Perhaps language is an act. The act of connecting with reality. 

Question for Second Reading Response to Mermin

One of the things that I initially had a problem with but have come to master over time is how to change a flat tire. Changing a tire is a necessary skill for anyone who is a driver or wants to become a driver in the future. To change a tire, you will need to park the car in a reasonably flat place to prevent it from rolling. The next step would be to remove the wheel cover or hub cap and to loosen the lug nuts using a wrench. This is done by turning the nuts in a counter-clockwise direction. Next, place the jack at the edge of the car and turn it to raise the car several inches from the ground. After that, remove the loose lug nuts by hand and grab the flat tire while pulling it toward you. Once this is done, put the tire away and lift the spare tire onto the lug bolts. Then put the lug nuts back and fasten them using your hand until they feel snug enough. It is only after you have lowered the car back to the ground using the jack that you can use the wrench to tighten the lug nuts. Lastly, replace the wheel cover or hub cap as gently as possible to avoid scratching it and then finish by placing the tools used and the flat tire in the car’s trunk. The whole process should take anywhere between 15 to 30 minutes.

When I first thought about the task described above, I felt that I would have a hard time expressing myself in the simplest way possible so that a 10-year-old could understand me. However, as I got more engrossed in the writing process, I noticed that all I had to do was explain the process without worrying whether the message would come across in a simplified manner. I told myself that since I already had an audience in mind, all I had to do was allow my thoughts to flow logically since changing a tire is something that most young people have witnessed at some point. In this way, I became cognizant of the fact I could use writing as a tool to think with because I wrote the words that came to mind and only came back later to verify whether what I had written made sense or not. This process subsequently resulted in my thinking about the differences between writing and writing up. In my opinion, the initial process of writing whatever came to my mind represented the writing part, while the writing up consisted of revisiting my first draft to ensure that I added any information that I felt may have been missing but was essential in making the report more understandable to a ten-year-old. In summary, this writing process made me more aware that language, writing, and thinking are all connected and that one should find a harmonious balance between the use of all three to create a remarkable literary work.

QSR-4 “Computers”

A personal interest that I have would have to be working with computers and building computers. The process of making a computer is quite advanced, but there is an easy way to explain it especially to a 10-year-old. 

I learned to begin building computers from watching many youtube videos which made it much easier, as I once also had no idea what I was doing. I found it quite interesting that someone could themselves make a system that was available pre-made for convenience, but there was a way to customize it to our own needs. Building computers is not as affordable as it should be, and I think it can serve as a gateway for young kids interested in engineering and it is enjoyable. 

There are many parts to the computer, I would explain it as a human body to make it easier to understand. The brain of the computer can be known as the processor which serves to give the rest of the computer information that is needed to do its tasks. The body of the computer is known as the motherboard, this part houses all of the components and allows them all to work in unison. The computer obviously needs to be powered, so something known as the power supply has the job to make sure that the rest of the system works and does not fail. If one part is not working, the rest of the system has trouble. The enjoyment of seeing something that can take hours to assemble working, makes all the time spent worth it in the end. 

Mermin says that writing is able to help us think, and this is true because while I was even writing this response, I felt that writing the things that I would do helped in explaining my reasoning in much better detail. Through research, when I began to write about topics I have never heard about, I understood the topic after I began to write down my ideas and thoughts instead of going off a lack of information. 

Writing sometimes may seem tedious, but Mermin has a point in how he explains how he thinks of writing and how beneficial it can be in our thought process as both writers and members of an audience for many pieces of writing that we may come across as scholars. 

One example that I have that I can explain how writing can be a tool for thinking would have to be when I was writing multiple papers in my high school Physics class. In this course, we heavily focused on lab reports, and when I was confused about a topic, the teacher gave us writings about the lab and I always relied on them to gain a better understanding of the topic. Those writings helped me think and at times writing may seem tedious, but I am glad at how effective it could be. Whether it is reflections, essays, lab reports, and research papers, all of them have helped me think in different ways that I would not have been able to process without the vast amount of writing.