In the nearly 30 years since Premack and Woodruff famously asked, “Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind?”, the question of exactly how much non-human primates understand about the mental lives of others has had an unusually dramatic history. As little as ten years ago it appeared that the answer would be a simple one, with early investigations of non-human primates’ mentalistic abilities yielding a steady stream of negative findings. Indeed, by the mid-1990s even very cautious researchers were ready (...) to flatly assert that Theory of Mind was a uniquely human capacity. Recently, however, an exciting new theoretical perspective on primate social cognition has arisen, and with it the distinct possibility that our evolutionary relatives may understand far more of the social world than we previously believed. In this paper we review new theory and evidence suggesting that non-human primates may indeed represent the mental states of others, at least within the domains for which their distinctive social ecology has prepared them. Having asserted that Premack and Woodruff's original question can be answered with a qualified yes, we then consider the new questions that arise in its place, particularly how and why our own Theory of Mind became more domain-general than that of other primates. (shrink)
Do humans start life with the capacity to detect and mentally represent the objects around them? Or is our object knowledge instead derived only as the result of prolonged experience with the external world? Are we simply able to perceive objects by watching their actions in the world, or do we have to act on objects ourselves in order to learn about their behavior? Finally, do we come to know all aspects of objects in the same way, or are some (...) aspects of our object understanding more epistemologically privileged than others? -/- "The Origins of Object Knowledge" presents the most up-to-date survey of the research into how the developing human mind understands the world of objects and their properties. It presents some of the best findings from leading research groups in the field of object representation approached from the perspective of developmental and comparative psychology. Topics covered in the book all address some aspect of what objects are from a psychological perspective; how humans and animals conceive what they are made of; what properties they possess; how we count them and how we categorize them; even how the difference between animate and inanimate objects leads to different expectations. The chapters also cover the variety of methodologies and techniques that must be used to study infants, young children, and non-human primates and the value of combining approaches to discovering what each group knows. -/- Bringing together leading researchers, communicating the most contemporary and exciting findings within the field of object representation, this volume will be an important work in the cognitive sciences, and of interest to those across the fields of developmental and comparative psychology. (shrink)
Tomasello et al. provide a new account of cultural uniqueness, one that hinges on a uniquely human motivation to share intentionality with others. We favor an alternative to this motivational account – one that relies on a modular explanation of the primate intention-reading system. We discuss this view in light of recent comparative experiments using competitive intention-reading tasks.