Do apes really have “a theory of mind”? This research, reported in the Guardian, suggests that they do. We don’t mean, of course, that chimps are actually drafting papers or holding seminars, merely that they understand that others can have beliefs which may differ from their own and which may be true or false. In the experiment the chimps see a man in a gorilla suit switch hiding places; but when his pursuer appears, they look at the original hiding place. This is, hypothetically, because they know that the pursuer didn’t see the switch, so presumably he still believes his target is in the original hiding place, and that’s where we should expect him to go.

I must admit I thought similar tell-tale behaviour had already been observed in wild chimps, but a quick search doesn’t turn anything up, and it’s claimed that the research establishes new conclusions. Unfortunately I think there are several other quite plausible ways to interpret the chimps’ behaviour that don’t require a theory of mind.

  1. The chimps momentarily forgot about the switch, or needed to ‘check’ (older readers, like me, may find this easy to identify with).
  2. The chimps were mentally reviewing ‘the story so far’, and so looked at the old hiding place.
  3. Minute clues in the experimenters’ behaviour told the chimps what to expect. The famous story of Clever Hans shows that animals can pick up very subtle signals humans are not even aware of giving.

This illustrates the perennial difficulty of investigating the mental states of creatures that cannot report them in language. Another common test of animal awareness involves putting a spot on the subject’s forehead and then showing them a mirror; if they touch the spot it is supposed to demonstrate that they recognise the reflection as themselves and therefore that they have a sense of their own selfhood. But it doesn’t really prove that they know the reflection is their own, only that the sight of someone with a spot causes them to check their own forehead. A control where they are shown another real subject with a spot might point to other interpretations, but I’ve never heard of it being done. It is also rather difficult to say exactly what belief is being attributed to the subjects. They surely don’t simply believe that the reflection is them: they’re still themselves. Are we saying they understand the concepts of images and reflections? It’s hard to say.

The suggestion of adding a control to this experiment raises the wider question of whether this sort of experiment can be generally tightened up by more ingenious set-ups? Who knows what ingenuity might accomplish, but it does seem to me that there is an insoluble methodological issue. How can we ever prove that particular patterns of behaviour relate to beliefs about the state of mind of others and not to similar beliefs in the subject’s own minds?

It could be that the problem really lies further back: that the questions themselves make no sense. Is it perhaps already fatally anthropomorphic to ask whether other animals have “a theory of mind” or “a conception of their own personhood”; perhaps these are already incorrigibly linguistic ideas that just don’t apply to creatures with no language. If so, we may need to unpick our thinking a bit and identify more purely behavioural ways of thinking, ones that are more informative and appropriate?

11 Comments

  1. 1. SelfAwarePatterns says:

    A fascinating development, although like you Peter, I was surprised that this hadn’t been established before.

    I’ve recently concluded that we make a mistake if we talk in terms of capabilities like theory of mind or self awareness being either completely present or entirely absent. It seems much more accurate to talk in terms of degree or sophistication.

    In the case of self awareness, any animal with distance senses (eyesight, hearing, smell, etc) seems to build image maps, internal models of its environment. Modeling the environment seems pointless if you don’t also have at least a rudimentary model of “you” in relation to that environment. For most animals, it’s not nearly as rich as a human’s model of self, but it should still be there.

    The problem with the mirror test is that if an animal fails it, it only tells us that it can’t figure out how reflections work, not necessarily that it doesn’t have a sense of its own self.

    For theory of mind, it seems difficult to imagine that every social species doesn’t have at least an incipient version of it. In that light, the idea that chimps, as one of the most intelligent social species around, have a sophisticated version of it, shouldn’t be too surprising for us. Of course, the difficulty is establishing that scientifically.

  2. 2. Callan S. says:

    I wonder how much magic shows indicate our own lack of theory of mind/indicates where our theory of mind becomes ragged and runs out?

    Sure, with slow thinking one ponderously considers the ways one was tricked by the other person, but in quick thinking, it’s magic!

  3. 3. Sci says:

    “We don’t mean, of course, that chimps are actually drafting papers or holding seminars”

    If we go with Fodor’s amusing comments about the philosophy of consciousness this would make apes smarter than us. 😉

  4. 4. Sergio Graziosi says:

    This Chimps story got on my nerves a little.
    Why? Because animal behaviour which supposedly relies on theory of mind (TOM) has been observed, studied, challenged and defended already, but still some headlines talk about “the last bastion of humanity” being eroded or some other attention-grabbing over-hyped extravaganza (not the Guardian, at least).
    First: social interactions require to somewhat assess other subjects’ state of mind. Call it what you might, but our pets perceive (or even look for!) clues about our mood and react accordingly. It might not be fully fledged “Theory of mind”, like attributing propositional beliefs to some non-self agent, but it does get close. Point is that TOM is a matter of degrees (surprise!), not a simple binary distinction (unless we arbitrarily fix the boundary).
    It follows that social animals have some degrees of theory of mind – it is also self-evident that we have more of it, so why the excitement?

    Second: work on Western scrub jays has been known for years, and it does suggest they may have TOM – thus, the news isn’t that new. Then again, as Peter notes, alternative explanations are possible, and it really is impossible to reach a final “certain” conclusion. Perhaps they don’t have TOM, they just have simpler heuristics that make them appear to have it. [A good summary of the debate around jays is here.]

    Overall, it’s the hopeless positivism of the whole debate that depresses me. For example: why do we feel authorised to assume that our own theory of mind isn’t a cheap heuristic to start with? Many discussions in here and elsewhere suggest that it probably is… Moreover: why do we think we should reach absolute certainty on this matter? Because we assume we have the fully fledged “real” Theory of mind – and because we forget that scientific conclusions are provisional and never expected to be certain. We also forget that our own TOM is likely to be a shortcut (Could it be that we don’t have the fully-fledged TOM after all? Alright, I’m being facetious on purpose), that it’s probably something that agents can have in varying quantities, and that probably the ecological history of different species also shaped it in qualitatively different ways. Thus, the TOM of an octopus might be very different from ours – should we call it TOM? Could we recognise it in one way or the other? Just like consciousness, or more narrowly phenomenal consciousness/experience.

    Overall, these new results are very interesting, I’m not saying they are not.
    However, they also have the even more interesting side effect of exposing our hubris. As Peter notes, you can always construct alternative stories. You can also hope to confirm or disprove them one by one with ad-hoc experiments, but people can still produce new alternatives! The interesting bit is that for things like TOM, we tend to set the bar quite high, and react to every not-openly-preposterous alternative explanation as a legitimate objection by default. However, it’s trivial to show that for any scientific theory you can always propose alternative interpretations, but if that’s true for any scientific theory, why do we use this fact as a way to dismiss the suggestive results on TOM and other cherished “human” faculties?

  5. 5. David Duffy says:

    From the discussion:

    “Apes were never shown the actor’s search behavior when he held a false belief, precluding reliance on external behavioral cues learned during the task. By requiring subjects to make predictions in situations that involved a constellation of novel features (e.g., a human attacking an apelike character hiding in a haystack), we also minimized the possibility that subjects could apply behavior rules acquired through extensive learning during past experiences. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that all change-of-location false-belief tasks are, in principle, open to an abstract behavior rule–based explanation — namely, that apes could solve the task by relying on a rule that agents search for things where they last saw them [Perner and Ruffman 2005]. However, this explanatory framework cannot easily accommodate the diversity of existing evidence for ape TOM [Call and Tomasello 2008], nor can it account for recent evidence that human infants and apes appear to infer whether others can see through objects that look opaque, based on their own experience with the occlusive properties (i.e., see-through or opaque) of those objects [Karg et al 2015 goggles experiment].

  6. 6. Jayarava says:

    I happen to have been re-reading Jane Goodall’s first book “In the Shadow of Man” followed by reading Frans de Waal’s “The Atheist and the Bonobo”. That chimps and bonobos have a theory of mind is beyond any reasonable doubt. In fact I’d say it’s a feature of all social mammals. To what extent chimps are capable of higher orders of intentionality (aka theory of mind, aka mentalisation), and whether the experiment above shows this is moot.

    Consider the institution of alpha-male in a chimp troop. Although we tend to think of this as attained by sheer physical violence, de Waal makes the point that even a smaller male can become alpha by putting together a coalition of supporters. Supporters can include males and females. The other adult males have to know that when the leader of a coalition does his charging display, that he has his coalition backing him up. Otherwise the largest, strongest, loudest chimp would always win and they do not. However, having become alpha, he must reciprocate by sharing food and mates with his coalition partners – they expect reciprocity or their support wanes and the alpha become vulnerable to challenge. The fact that a chimp knows that third party chimps support another chimp in his bid for the alpha position hints at third order intentionality.

    For there even to be an acknowledged alpha-male requires that chimps have at least second order intentionality and collective intentionality. Not only does the alpha claim privilege, but he is *acknowledged* as having that status through behavioural changes. The alpha gets privileged access to food and mates as well as a leadership role in dealing with strange chimps and predators. Troop chimps act submissively towards the alpha partly because the alpha and his coalition threaten violence in the face of any challenge.

    The troop *must* have collective intentionality for this system to work. And they have to be able to adapt quickly when the alpha changes, because if they do not display the appropriate submission they may be injured. And they may not be present when the change over happens, so they have to interpret social cues about such changes.

    Most adult male chimps are indulgent of infants. Though infanticide is not unknown, it is not usually an accidental result of socially unacceptable behaviour. Male chimps are about three times stronger than an average human male. Getting hit hard by a chimp is worse than being punched by Muhammed Ali. A young chimp may swagger up to an alpha and pound on him. He has to know that the infant cannot hurt him and does not yet understand the significance of such challenging behaviour, because he responded as if to an adult the infant would most likely be killed. If an adolescent male tried this, he would almost certainly be severely injured.

    De Waal got interested in primates when he noticed, contrary to all received wisdom, that after a fight male chimpanzees reconcile and make up. The winner of the fight will hold out a hand, and when it is accepted the combatants will hug, kiss and groom each other to restore the peace. Chimps, though undoubtedly more violent than human beings, do not usually hold grudges. It is also common for other members of a troop to console the loser of a fight with touch, grooming, and shared food. What’s more there are many examples of captive and wild older males acting as policeman – no longer concerned with vying for the top spot, they start to intervene in conflicts on the side of the weaker party to defuse violent conflict. They tend to hang around until the combatants are reconciled and the threat of violence has ended.

    Amongst de Waals most famous experiments with primates are those on reciprocity. See for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meiU6TxysCg (currently 10.8 million views on Youtube). As he notes the understanding of reciprocity is widespread in mammals and birds. Many animals understand fairness. Any of the animals may go on strike then they receive an inferior reward while their neighbour gets a superior reward. But chimps take it one step further. Sometimes the chimp who gets the superior reward will go on strike until the chimp who gets the inferior reward is upgraded. This is completely consistent with second order intentionality – the chimp has to understand that their peer will be disappointed to receive an inferior reward and desire to share the superior reward with them. Incidentally this also demonstrates that chimps sometimes display altruism.

    Beyond this Robin Dunbar has calculated that primates have the brain structures and capacity for mentalisation, but to a much lesser extent than modern humans. Chimps have the brain structures and capacity consistent with second order intentionality. They understand what another chimp is feeling and what their mind is directed towards, but it may not go beyond this to understanding how a third party might react to this knowledge – though in the case of an alpha’s coalition of support this may require 3rd order. It is likely that all social mammals are capable of 2nd order intentionality, because it is a basic requirement for pro-social behaviour of the kind that binds social mammal groups together. Higher order intentionality is an important topic in Dunbar’s work. I very highly recommend his Pelican Introduction to Human Evolution.

    I see a great deal of research on Google Scholar related to intentionality or theory of mind in chimps, so I’m puzzled as to why you might have struggled to find it.

  7. 7. Sergio Graziosi says:

    Jayarava, nice summary!
    I wish I could say that I agree with every word, but I’m bound to show a little caution and object to “That chimps and bonobos have a theory of mind is beyond any reasonable doubt”, sorry!

    I do think you are right, but I also think we can’t be sure (cognitive dissonance, anyone?). Per Peter’s concluding remarks, unless we’ll be able to reliably “read the minds” of other primates, the scope for alternative explanations may be narrow, but won’t ever reach a good approximation of zero.

    In particular, are you aware of the (hypothetical/controversial) Baldwin effect? some time ago I’ve written a somewhat muffled thing around these topics, using the exact same YouTube video. (IIRC) One of my intents was to show in practice why such topics are never open to straightforward and conclusive interpretation.
    In our case, someone (not me!) could argue that yes, theory of mind evolved, producing the behaviours we are talking about, then Baldwin kicked in, making these behaviours automatic and theory of mind redundant. This isn’t impossible, as it would allow to scale down expensive cognitive abilities. Thus, in some way, we (including me) can assume that this mechanism has been and still is active, changing the question to “to what extent is theory of mind being made redundant?”.
    It may be that Baldwin’s effect is negligible (for example, because the cost of automatically picking up all the right clues is similar to the cost of maintaining TOM) and that theory of mind evolved and remained in all the great apes as well as in some other monkeys (my bet), but it may be not. We just don’t know. After all, we do presume that eusociality is possible without TOM, as I don’t think we are happy to ascribe TOM to ants…

  8. 8. Jayarava says:

    #7 Sergio. This is the theoretical tail wagging the empirical dog.

    You don’t disagree that chimps are capable of the behaviours I list or that they are completely consistent with intentionality. Such behaviours are a matter of record and not in dispute.

    However you seem to argue, following Baldwin(?), that *maybe* chimps can produce all their complex social interactions, reproducing exactly and *indistinguishably* many social behaviours and interactions that are completely consistent with higher order and collective intentionality, but without actually having intentionality. Is this right? I’m a little confused because this doesn’t seem to be the argument on your blog.

    Your point above seems to boil down to casting doubt on the idea that chimps, or indeed humans, have minds. It is a step away from strong behaviourism, which argues that we don’t have minds at all, but it is still a weak form of behaviourism in which the cognitive part of the mind is eliminated in favour of a reflex which does the same job. And since it is “not impossible”, it is somehow a valid criticism? This kind of argument is precisely why so many scientists have become exasperated with philosophers.

    It ought to be obvious ants are not relevant to primate behaviour.

    I do not understand the enduring appeal of behaviourism and frankly don’t care enough to have it explained.

  9. 9. Sergio Graziosi says:

    Jayarava #8,
    thanks, I understand (and share?!) your confusion. I should have specified that yes, the point I made in that old post was different from the one I’ve made in #7.
    This stuff is confusing, and as I study/learn/think more, my own ideas keep shifting, making it even harder to figure out where I stand. Apologies for my own slipperiness, I sometimes comment here because it forces me to clarify and allows to do so while exploiting the informality of blog comments.
    I see two strands, one is solidly epistemological: can we say that “X is true” and what does it mean? The second is about behaviourism. In both cases, I am in the process of changing my mind (or learn more, simply), so the chance to clarify is very welcome from my part.

    On the epistemological point, I’m more on the philosopher’s side because I am allergic to hubris, scientific or not (albeit I clearly have much more tolerance for my own :-/). Thus, re your point on great apes having second order intentionality, I agree in substance, but can’t help feeling uneasy with the form: “beyond any reasonable doubt” is too strong for me, and I perceive it as ultimately unscientific. [See the unscientific side of main-stream research for the (even older) root of this particular obsession of mine.]

    The rest of #7 is building a hasty “ad hoc” case for why we do have some reasonable doubts: perhaps high level mentalisations can be simplified, lowering their energetic and maintenance costs. If that’s possible, which we positively don’t know, then perhaps the faculties needed to support second-order intentionality have been selected out, perhaps some of them have been, perhaps some are being selected out (perhaps our own abilities are nothing but cheap tricks, even!). I am comfortable saying that your (#6) proposal is likely to be true, but we can’t take it for granted, we need to remain on our toes.

    I’ll try an easier example: we automatically react to angry faces, we don’t need to explicitly think “that frown signals that s/he’s angry, I’d better take care”, we “just know”. It’s possible that this capacity is 100% innate and that we don’t need to learn it.
    However, when facial expressions first appeared, it’s unreasonable to think that this ability was already there. Thus, the story would be: ability to visually express emotions appears, individuals would need to learn how to use facial expressions to communicate stuff and learn how to interpret those signals. With time, both sides become genetically encoded (Baldwin), individuals don’t need to learn this stuff anymore, they react automatically instead (both in producing and interpreting the signals). I am not saying this is how the ability in question evolved, merely that the drive towards genetic encoding has to be there (I’m sure it was way more complicated, I’m just using a blatant simplification to explain my doubt). This is Baldwin in action, its effect is somewhat inevitable, the question is about how relevant it is, if at all (Note: “not impossible” isn’t my key argument, “somewhat inevitable” is ;-)).
    All I’m saying is that unravelling how our innate ability to produce and interpret facial expressions actually evolved is brutally difficult, thus we should use the “without reasonable doubt” phrase with much caution – same thing applies to our (shared!) intuition that great apes have second-order intentionality. I can add that I’ve been guilty of the same fault, on record, many times – this criticism is self-directed more than anything.

    On to behaviourism. I’ve recently become more sympathetic towards radical embodiment (RE), as you may have noticed, which is indeed worryingly close to old school behaviourism. The old school still looks indefensible to me, the new RE version instead looks promising for two reasons:
    1. Behaviour is all we can measure, so we should start from it. Too much focus on cognition makes us forget that we are bodies to start with – not good.
    2. Seeing our bodies as a cognitive resource is necessary, because we have them, and evolution uses everything that’s available for tweaking. Thus: we ought to expect that every available cheap trick to use our body to reduce computational cost may have been discovered and used. RE is perfectly placed to uncover all these tricks and could go a long way.

    Leaving computationalism aside, having said all this, I am also very critic of RE, because explaining our mental life is the ultimate goal: we (the CE regulars) do positively want to explain it. Explaining it away is theoretically possible (as per the excellent Downward Causation thread), but very much not what we are interested in doing.
    Overall, I’m halfway between opposing factions, so not a surprise that my thoughts are confusing.
    Does the above help in any way?

  10. 10. Jayarava says:

    #9 Sergio, you are still allowing the theoretical tail to wag the empirical dog. This is the problem that interests me now, not the content of your doubts. Your explanations aren’t interesting at all.

    Theory is all very well, but when it is utterly divorced from evidence, then it is just a fantasy. I’ve no interest in such fantasies. I’m quite capable of changing my mind when new evidence comes along, or when someone can show decisively that an existing interpretation is wrong. I love it when this happens. But I don’t feel any obligation to take on each new evidence-free theory that comes along just because someone in academia has thought of some new objection. That way lies madness.

    I do evaluate new ideas from time to time if I think they make sense. I wish I had read John Searle twenty years ago because he has radically changed the way I think about the world this year. But twenty years ago I was reading George Lakoff who also changing my worldview. One revolution at a time!

    That you have doubts and why you have them is clear enough. But just because someone can imagine hypothetical objections is no reason to have doubts about something as well attested as chimp intentionality.

    As Hume said, in order for testimony about a miracle to be trustworthy, it must be the case that the possibility of the testimony being wrong is even more miraculous. There is a principle here that we can extent to hypothetical objections to empirically grounded theories. It would have to be more miraculous for chimps not to have intentionality than for them to have it. And thus it would require extraordinary evidence to support the claim. To date you have cited no evidence. Indeed it’s not clear that your theories make any predictions that would distinguish one scenario from the other, since both explanations would predict exactly the same behaviour.

    However, the theories in which chimps do not have intentionality are all based on tacit assumptions that we have no reason to believe apply. Everything depends on multiple initial “if X were true” conditions, in which we have no particular reason to believe that X is true. Indeed we have many reasons to believe that X is not true, because the evidence points to intentionality, not away from it.

    To put it briefly, not every doubt is reasonable. Sorting out which doubts are is half the effort of philosophy in relation to science. Doubts have to relate to evidence that does not support the current conclusion. What evidence are you citing in relation to your doubts. You are citing no evidence at all. Hence I say, this is the tail wagging the dog.

    This is not the same as saying we know with metaphysical certainty that chimps have intentionality. We never know *anything* with such certainty. But we’re over the threshold where it makes sense to be a tooth-fairy agnostic about this issue. Until such time as a good reason comes along to doubt it, it makes sense to proceed as if chimps and other animals have intentionality, at least of the second order, that they have collective intentionality. It is also the simplest explanation and therefore favoured by the principle of parsimony.

    To me all this is not radically embodied at all. Quite the contrary it seems to be radically disembodied intellectual exercise unrelated to experience. And perhaps that is the key problem to address. Too much theory and not enough experience. Philosophers need to get their hands dirty, or they become dishonest.

  11. 11. Sergio Graziosi says:

    Jayarava, thanks for this, I do appreciate your patience, despite my getting on your nerves (quite visibly).
    It is my time to be confused, but perhaps it’s best to start with what I think we agree on.

    This is not the same as saying we know with metaphysical certainty that chimps have intentionality. We never know *anything* with such certainty.

    Check!

    To put it briefly, not every doubt is reasonable. Sorting out which doubts are is half the effort of philosophy in relation to science.

    Check!

    it makes sense to proceed as if chimps and other animals have intentionality, at least of the second order, that they have collective intentionality

    Check!

    Philosophers need to get their hands dirty, or they become dishonest.

    Understood as a one-line provocation, yes, it’s agreed.

    Finally:

    you are still allowing the theoretical tail to wag the empirical dog. This is the problem that interests me now

    Yes, my so called “theory”, doesn’t even qualify as such. It was merely intended to be a cheap example, deployed here because better ones would have been much, much longer. Recall my main point: affirming that great apes have second order intentionality “beyond reasonable doubt” is just a little too strong for my taste. Given the agreed points above, I think it’s quite possible we’re arguing over a misunderstanding: for me, once I accepted that “We never know *anything* with such certainty”, the only knowledge that is beyond reasonable doubt can be found in the purely abstract domain (maths, logic, etc).
    For you, it seems that you are being more pragmatic and accepting a less stringent condition: “beyond reasonable doubt” applies to practical stuff for which we have some theoretical understanding, if/when we don’t have reasons to search for alternative theories: i.e. most of our empirical data seems to be accountable for by means of the current theory; I’ll add that we probably don’t need to have already found a way to account for most of the empirical data, just have good reasons to expect that we will.
    If I’m reading you correctly, I’m OK with lowering the bar: it’s just a matter of definitions.

    Now however we get to the interesting part: what relation should theory have with empiricism? Here I do think we disagree. For once, I am not trying to develop some quirky figment of my own imagination, I am merely happy with the mainstream view on Duhem–Quine thesis: in a nutshell, there is no theory-free science, there can’t be one. Thus, the tail-dog metaphor looks misleading. I like the image, and I agree that it’s far too easy to get carried away with too much speculation (guilty as charged). However, better people have already shown that the theoretical tail necessarily wags the empirical dog (to some extent). As a result, the problem is interesting, and is the reason why I’ve intervened, but I can’t follow you, in case you really are proposing that theory has to follow empirical data, always and without exception. I can’t because the position simply doesn’t stand to scrutiny: some theoretical assumptions are necessary even to recognise existing empirical evidence – let alone produce some more…

    Too dry an intellectual exercise? Usually, yes. But not when we are discussing the mental domain, consciousness, intentionality and the like. Why not? Because radical empiricism frequently leads people to assume that the whole mental domain is an illusion, of the “it doesn’t exist” kind. You and I both want to reject this view, leading to a strange conundrum. My way to proceed is to bite the bullet and accept that we need an additional theoretical effort, in order to reject the “explaining away” views. Why theoretical? Because, as we’ve discovered also in this case, “both explanations would predict exactly the same behaviour” (where “behaviour” stands for anything measurable).

    We arrive to my confusion: the only way I’ve found to make sense of what you are writing here is that you simply start with the assumption that intentionality, second-order intentionality, and with them, I presume, Phenomenal Experience, exist and are empirically detectable. We see chimps interact and we can reliably infer what they are thinking. This strikes me as theoretically loaded and empirically questionable. We don’t know what it is that allows us to inscribe intentions to chimps, after all. We have a track record of ascribing intentions to clouds, seas, volcanoes and what not, so I guess we should be careful with our natural abilities, when it comes to this sort of subjects.
    The confusion: from your comments on CE, I don’t think it’s reasonable to ascribe this position to you. I am probably wrong in my reading, your position is likely to be much more solid, but I am failing to decode it.

    I do see some similarities between your position and the latest Searle, but I’m afraid what I’ve read about the latter didn’t attract my interest strongly enough; as a result I’ve not read “Seeing Things as They Are”, I currently have no plan to, but I am certainly happy to hear why I should.

    Overall: “Sorting out which doubts are [reasonable] is half the effort of philosophy in relation to science”. Yes. However, the most empirically inclined tend to deny the existence of the mental domain. Thus, I take that many of them would find that “great apes have second order intentionality” very questionable. We also probably agree that models of physical things bouncing off one another have the theoretical potential of predicting ape/human behaviour. All considered, if we want to start assuming the existence of the mental, of intentionality and whatnot, the onus is on us: we ought to build a theoretical case to justify the assumption. Going for, “but I know I have intentions, I can also recognise them in my cat” has failed to win the opposition, so I need something better. While searching, I have to concede that apes and humans might not have intentionality at all. I personally find the notion absurd, and have been on record pushing against it, in case it wasn’t obvious…

    PS: Just in, some evidence that we learn to classify facial expression just in. Original paper (I merely read the linked report) published on PNAS, which in my book means that it should be approached with a good dose of scepticism.

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