The set of cognitive adaptations known to evolutionary psychologists as Theory of Mind (ToM) is central to the development of plot, character, and theme in Nathaniel Hawthorne's well-known short story, “The Minister's Black Veil.” Its protagonist frustrates the efforts of community members to make inferences about his intentions and feelings by covering the entire upper portion of his face, including his eyes, with a piece of black cloth. Such veiling effectively distances him from others by denying them access to vital informational cues. Those around him react to Hooper's ongoing act of concealment with varying degrees of bewilderment, fear, hostility, and blame—a set of responses largely shared by the story's readers. Because the black veil disables socially important interpretive mechanisms, it fosters confusion and provokes antagonism in the wearer's community. Finally, Hooper's action calls negative attention to the central role played by deception and self-deception in human interactions, casting these adaptive strategies (and thus human nature itself) in an unflattering light.

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