Toward a science of other minds: Escaping the argument by analogy

Cognitive Science 24 (3):509-541 (2000)
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Abstract

Since Darwin, the idea of psychological continuity between humans and other animals has dominated theory and research in investigating the minds of other species. Indeed, the field of comparative psychology was founded on two assumptions. First, it was assumed that introspection could provide humans with reliable knowledge about the causal connection between specific mental states and specific behaviors. Second, it was assumed that in those cases in which other species exhibited behaviors similar to our own, similar psychological causes were at work. In this paper. we show how this argument by analogy is flowed with respect to the case of second-order mental states. As a test case, we focus on the question of how other species conceive of visual attention, and in particular whether chimpanzees interpret seeing as a mentalistic event involving internal states of perception, attention, and belief. We conclude that chimpanzees do not reason about seeing in this manner, and indeed, there is considerable reason to suppose that they do not harbor representations of mental states in general. We propose a reinterpretation model in which the majority of the rich social behaviors that humans and other primates share in common emerged long before the human lineage evolved the psychological means of interpreting those behaviors in mentalistic terms. Although humans, chimpanzees, and most other species may be said to possess mental states, humans alone may have evolved a cognitive specialization for reasoning about such states

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