Wikipedia:Beware mindreader text

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This essay, WP:Beware mindreader text, refers to text which attempts to interpret the thought processes, emotions, or motives as experienced by another person. Such concepts are typically unprovable, and even when stated in an autobiographical source, the author might be mistaken as to some particular thoughts when recounted at a later time. Consequently, text dealing with someone's personal thoughts should be avoided in articles.

Verfiable but perhaps untrue[edit]

A text passage about another person's private thoughts might appear verifiable, as traced to a reliable source, but fundamentally, even an impeccable source might be overstepping the bounds of what is truly knowable. The question should be asked:

"Is the source attempting to play 'mindreader' and channel thoughts that are subject to excessive speculation?"

In general, when discussing another person's private thoughts, then the topic has strayed into areas which are rarely provable. Even when the text is based on reviews of an autobiography, it is best to avoid comments unless stated multiple times by the author, over a longer period of time. Also, corroborating evidence, such as personal memos or photos, should be cited, which helps to confirm any thoughts which an author claims, due to potential problems of faulty recollection.

Some of the more questionable comments would be remarks made by critics, or analysts, about another person's motives, goals, or inspiration, where such remarks involve too much speculation. Those remarks should be avoided, to reduce the chances for later debates about the topic.

For example, the statement "Smith believed that Jones was wrong" might be edited to read "Smith claimed that Jones was wrong" on "mindreading" grounds, i.e.: we can check whether Smith made the claim, but not whether he believed it.

[ This essay is a quick draft to be expanded later. ]

See also[edit]