chapter  5
30 Pages

Evolving to Be Mentalists: The "Mind-Reading Mums" Hypothesis

Our human capacities to "read" the mind states of others are sophisti-cated and complex. There are few hypotheses about how (i.e., to what advantage) these capacities might have evolved. Two candidates are the Manipulation Hypothesis (MH) and what may be dubbed the Intervening Variable Hypothesis (IVH). I argue that the MH, or "machiavellian intelligence"— gaining Darwinian advantage through manipulation-falls short as an explanation. There are probably severe constraints on the frequency with which deception and other hostile manipulations may be used to one's own advantage. Just as importantly, in humans, such behaviors require quite complex, sophisticated mind-reading if they are to lead to lasting and decisive benefit for the perpetrator. The MH leaves unanswered the question of how the many simple components of such mind-reading might have been selected for (i.e., how they might have been advantageous in their own right). The IVH, also, seems to be an incomplete account, especially with respect to what adaptive problems may have created a selection pressure for more efficient or "smarter" behavior reading, and thence for greater mentalistic abilities.