chapter  4
21 Pages

New Evolutionary Perspectives on Theory of Mind: Linnda R. Caporael and Glenn D. Reeder


Premack and Woodruff (1978) conducted pioneering studies on the question of whether chimpanzees are capable of inferring the goals and intentions of other agents and, in the process, coined the term theory of mind. Although their work prompted a lively debate about what it is to be human, the emerging consensus is that nonhuman species are capable of only the most rudimentary types of mind reading (Penn & Povinelli, 2007). Thus, although Tarzan’s pet ape, Cheeta, was capable of basic imitation, joint attention, and even understanding immediate desires and intentions of others, it would never think that Tarzan held a false belief about the location of the nearest watering hole. More advanced forms of mind reading-recognizing that other agents may have false beliefs, form sequences of plans, or hold metacognitions about themselves or others-are probably unique to humans (Malle, 2002; Penn & Povinelli, 2007).