By adulthood, most of us have become experts in human behavior, able to make sense of the myriad behaviors we find in environments ranging from the family home to the local mall and beyond. In philosophy of mind, our understanding of others has been largely explained in terms of knowing others' beliefs and desires; describing others' behavior in these terms is the core of what is known as folk psychology. In Do Apes Read Minds? Kristin Andrews challenges this view of folk psychology, arguing that we don't consider others' beliefs and desires when predicting most quotidian behavior, and that our explanations in these terms are often inaccurate or unhelpful. Rather than mindreading, or understanding others as receptacles for propositional attitudes, Andrews claims that folk psychologists see others first as whole persons with traits, emotions, and social relations.
Drawing on research in developmental psychology, social psychology, and animal cognition, Andrews argues for a pluralistic folk psychology that employs different kinds of practices (including prediction, explanation, and justification) and different kinds of cognitive tools (including personality trait attribution, stereotype activation, inductive reasoning about past behavior, and generalization from self) that are involved in our folk psychological practices. According to this understanding of folk psychology – which does not require the sophisticated cognitive machinery of second-order metacognition associated with having a theory of mind – animals (including the other great apes) may be folk psychologists, too.
“This book is written by a philosopher well versed not only in the comparative psychology of theory of mind but also in the research on human development. Do Apes Read Minds? provides a timely reminder that theory of mind should not be reduced to predicting behavior. There is more to it: belief and desire are used as justifying reasons, and it remains an open question just when children acquire this ability and whether animals have it at all.”
- Josef Perner, Department of Psychology and Centre for Neurocognitive Research, University of Salzburg
“An excellent critical history of the theory of mind debate, especially concerning the human ape, which argues persuasively for moving beyond the propositional attitudes to a less intellectualistic account of folk psychology.”
- Robert Gordon, Department of Philosophy, University of Missouri
“Do apes read minds? In this thought-provoking book, Kristin Andrews offers much more than an answer to the title question. Her critique of pure mind reading leads to a richer account of the various emotional and cognitive mechanisms that chimpanzees and humans use to form social bonds and coordinate behavior with their own kind. We are left with the realization that we still have much to learn about ourselves and our nearest relatives.”
- Colin Allen, Provost Professor of Cognitive Science and History & Philosophy of Science; Director, Indiana University Cognitive Science Program, Indiana University, Bloomington
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Kristin Andrews is Associate Professor of Philosophy at York University, Toronto. She is the author of The Animal Mind: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Animal Cognition.