Chapter

The evolution of a theory of mind

Simon Baron-Cohen

in The Descent of Mind

Published in print March 2000 | ISBN: 9780192632593
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191670497 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780192632593.003.0013
The evolution of a theory of mind

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Homo sapiens is arguably the only species that possesses a developed ‘theory of mind’. By this, this chapter means the ability to attribute the full range of mental states, and to use such attributions to make sense of and predict behaviour. It argues that without a theory of mind, having the ability to speak or perceive speech would have been of little value. A theory of mind must have preceded any ability to use language in the communicative way in which it is used today. The chapter also questions the claim by Steven Mithen that a theory of mind evolved around six million years ago. The chapter's reason for questioning this date is that recent experimental evidence throws doubt on the idea that modern apes have a full theory of mind.

Keywords: Homo sapiens; theory of mind; mental states; behaviour; speech; language; Steven Mithen; modern apes

Chapter.  7270 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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