Josef Perner

Prof. Josef Perner
Department of Psychology

Hellbrunner Strasse 34, 5020 Salzburg, Austria

Tel.: + 43 662 8044-5122

Consultation hour: contact Astrid Sattler + 43 662 80445104
Research group: Theory of Mind and Mental Files


  • 1972-78: Graduate Studies at the University of Toronto, Department of Psychology.

  • 1978: Ph.D. 1974: M.A. in Psychology

  • 1968-72: Undergraduate Studies at the University of Salzburg: Psychology, Mathematics (minor).

Academic Positions:

  • since 2016 emeritus
  • since 2004 Member of the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience.
  • since 1995 Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychology, U of Salzburg.
  • 1993 Professor in Experimental Psychology
  • 1979-94 Member of Faculty in Experimental Psychology, U of Sussex; 1982 Tenure
  • 1978-79 Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, U of Basel, Switzerland


  • My empirical work has focused on the development of perspective taking and how it relates to theory of mind, counterfactual reasoning, identity, alternative naming, and many more. My theoretical work has been on the nature of mental representation, the implicit-explicit distinction, and more recently on Teleology as a common sense alternative to theory of mind and mental simulation. My current preoccupation is mental files theory explaining why all the abilities studied relate to each other developmentally and in the brain.

Key publications

  • Wimmer, H. & Pemer, J. (1983). Beliefs about beliefs: Representation and constraining function of wrong beliefs in young children’s understanding of deception. Cognition 13, 103-128.
  • Perner, J. (1991). Understanding the representational mind. Cambridge, MA: Bradford Books/ MIT-Press.
  • Dienes, Z. & Perner, J. (1999). A theory of implicit and explicit knowledge (target article). Behav Brain Sci. 22, 735-755.
  • Pemer, J., Mauer, M. C., & Hildenbrand, M.(2011). Identity: Key to children’s understanding of belief. Science, 333, 474–477.
  • Perner, J., Aichhorn, M., Tholen, M. G., & Schurz, M. (2021). Mental files and teleology. In M. Gilead & K. N. Ochsner (Hrsg.), The Neural Basis of Mentalizing (S. 257–281). Springer International Publishing.