We argue against theory-of-mind interpretation of recent false-belief experiments with young infants and explore two other interpretations: enactive and behavioral abstraction approaches. We then discuss the differences between these alternatives.
Tomasello et al. argue that the “small difference that made a big difference” in the evolution of the human mind was the disposition to share intentions. Chimpanzees are said to understand certain mental states (like intentions), but not share them. We argue that an alternative model is better supported by the data: the capacity to represent mental states (and other unobservable phenomena) is a human specialization that co-evolved with natural language.
The question of whether chimpanzees, like humans, reason about unobservable mental states remains highly controversial. On one account, chimpanzees are seen as possessing a psychological system for social cognition that represents and reasons about behaviors alone. A competing account allows that the chimpanzee's social cognition system additionally construes the behaviors it represents in terms of mental states. Because the range of behaviors that each of the two systems can generate is not currently known, and because the latter system depends upon (...) the former, determining the presence of this latter system in chimpanzees is a far more difficult task than has been assumed. We call for recognition of this problem, and a shift from experimental paradigms that cannot resolve this question, to ones that might allow researchers to intelligently determine when it is necessary to postulate the presence of a system which reasons about both behavior and mental states. (shrink)
From an early age, humans know a surprising amount about basic physical principles, such as gravity, force, mass, and shape. We can see this in the way that young children play, and manipulate objects around them. The same behaviour has long been observed in primates - chimpanzees have been shown to possess a remarkable ability to make and use simple tools. But what does this tell us about their inner mental state - do they therefore share the same understanding to (...) that of a young child? Do they understand the simple, underlying physical principles involved? Though some people would say that they do, this book reports groundbreaking research that questions whether this really is the case. -/- Folk Physics for Apes challenges the assumptions so often made about apes. It offers us a rare glimpse into the workings of another mind, examining how apes perceive and understand the physical world - an understanding that appears to be both similar to, and yet profoundly different from our own. The book will have broad appeal to evolutionary psychologists, developmental psychologists, and those interested in the sub-disciplines of cognitive science (philosophy, anthropology). The book additionally offers for developmental psychologists some valuable new non-verbal techniques for assessing causal understanding in young children. (shrink)