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.

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