Visual self-recognition is often controversially cited as an indicator of self-awareness and assessed with the mirror-mark test. Great apes and humans, unlike small apes and monkeys, have repeatedly passed mirror tests, suggesting that the underlying brain processes are homologous and evolved 14-18 million years ago. However, neuroscientific, developmental, and clinical dissociations show that the medium used for self-recognition (mirror vs photograph vs video) significantly alters behavioral and brain responses, likely due to perceptual differences among the different media and prior experience. (...) On the basis of this evidence and evolutionary considerations, we argue that the visual self-recognition skills evident in humans and great apes are a byproduct of a general capacity to collate representations, and need not index other aspects of self-awareness. (shrink)
If I could talk to the animals Content Type Journal Article Category Book Symposium Pages 1-15 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9553-1 Authors Thomas Suddendorf, School of Psychology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia Mark E. Borrello, Program in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Department of Ecology Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA Colin Allen, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, College of Arts and Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA Gregory Radick, Centre for History and Philosophy of Science, (...) Department of Philosophy, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796. (shrink)
There are logical and empirical grounds that link episodic memory and the ability to imagine future events. In some sense, both episodic memory and episodic foresight may be regarded as two sides of the same capacity to travel mentally in time. After reviewing some of the recent evidence for commonalities, I discuss limits of these parallels. There are fundamental differences between thinking about past and future events that need to be kept in clear view if we are to make progress (...) in understanding the nature of mental time travel. The reviewed evidence suggests that mental time travel is based on a complex system selected not for accuracy about past and future per se, but for fitness benefits. Functional analyses promise to lead to fruitful avenues for future research. (shrink)
The real reason for the apparent discontinuity between human and nonhuman minds is that all closely related hominids have become extinct. Nonetheless, I agree with Penn et al. that comparative psychology should aim to establish what cognitive traits humans share with other animals and what traits they do not share, because this could make profound contributions to genetics and neuroscience. There is, however, no consensus yet, and Penn et al.'s conclusion that it all comes down to one trait is premature.
There is a growing interest in mental time travel in cognitive psychology, neuroscience, developmental psychology, comparative psychology, and evolutionary psychology. Here we review current issues in each of these disciplines. To help move the debates forward we name and distinguish 15 key hypotheses about mental time travel. We argue that foresight has for too long lived in the shadows of research on memory and call for further research efforts.
In a dynamic world, mechanisms allowing prediction of future situations can provide a selective advantage. We suggest that memory systems differ in the degree of flexibility they offer for anticipatory behavior and put forward a corresponding taxonomy of prospection. The adaptive advantage of any memory system can only lie in what it contributes for future survival. The most flexible is episodic memory, which we suggest is part of a more general faculty of mental time travel that allows us not only (...) to go back in time, but also to foresee, plan, and shape virtually any specific future event. We review comparative studies and find that, in spite of increased research in the area, there is as yet no convincing evidence for mental time travel in nonhuman animals. We submit that mental time travel is not an encapsulated cognitive system, but instead comprises several subsidiary mechanisms. A theater metaphor serves as an analogy for the kind of mechanisms required for effective mental time travel. We propose that future research should consider these mechanisms in addition to direct evidence of future-directed action. We maintain that the emergence of mental time travel in evolution was a crucial step towards our current success. (shrink)
Are humans alone in their ability to reminisce about the past and imagine the future? Recent evidence suggests that food-storing birds (scrub jays) have access to information about what they have stored where and when. This has raised the possibility of mental time travel (MTT) in animals and sparked similar research with other species. Here we caution that such data do not provide convincing evidence for MTT. Examination of characteristics of human MTT (e.g. non-verbal declaration, generativity, developmental prerequisites) points to (...) other avenues as to how a case for animal MTT could be made. In light of the current lack of evidence, however, we maintain that MTT is a uniquely human characteristic. (shrink)
Various deficits in the cognitive functioning of people with autism have been documented in recent years but these provide only partial explanations for the condition. We focus instead on an imitative disturbance involving difficulties both in copying actions and in inhibiting more stereotyped mimicking, such as echolalia. A candidate for the neural basis of this disturbance may be found in a recently discovered class of neurons in frontal cortex, 'mirror neurons' (MNs). These neurons show activity in relation both to specific (...) actions performed by self and matching actions performed by others, providing a potential bridge between minds. MN systems exist in primates without imitative and ‘theory of mind’ abilities and we suggest that in order for them to have become utilized to perform social cognitive functions, sophisticated cortical neuronal systems have evolved in which MNs function as key elements. Early developmental failures of MN systems are likely to result in a consequent cascade of developmental impairments characterised by the clinical syndrome of autism. (shrink)
Great apes show behavioural evidence for secondary representation similar to that of children of about two years of age. However, there is no convincing evidence for metarepresentation in apes. A good evolutionary interpretation should be parsimonious and must bring developmental and comparative data in accord. I propose a model based on the work of Perner (1991) and close by pointing out a logical flaw in Heyes’ second proposed experiment.
The development of a `theory of mind' may not only be important for understanding the minds of others but also for using one's own mind. To investigate this supposition, forty children between the ages of three and four were given false-belief and creativity tasks. The numbers of appropriate and of original responses in the creativity test were found to correlate positively with performance on false-belief tasks. This association was robust, as it continued to be strong and significant even when age (...) and verbal intelligence were partialled out. The results support the hypothesis that the metarepresentational skills involved in theory of mind also affect the way children can access and scan their own mental repertoire beyond the areas of currently activated content (i.e. divergent thinking). With the advent of theory of mind a basic cognitive shift takes place in human development, and possibly took place in cognitive evolution. (shrink)