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Russell Gray on the Evolution of Cognition - Note

دوشنبه, ۲۸ تیر ۱۳۹۵، ۰۸:۴۹ ق.ظ

Russell Gray’s, an evolutionary biologist and psychologist, in his lecture ‘The Evolution of Cognition without Miracles’ (Nijmegen Lectures, 2014) talks about two different explanations of cognition in animals (‘romantic’ and ‘killjoy’) based on evidences. These two explanations are the claim that some animals like chimpanzees a crows have sort of theory of mind or insights (romantic explanation); or do the evidences support this claim that those animals do not have any kind theory of mind and insights and such traits are uniquely human (killjoy explanation). However, there could be a third explanation.  

To analyse these claims, it can be said that ‘romantic’, like many other abstract concepts, has no clear meaning and can be vague in this context. Furthermore, the answer to this questions mainly depends on our account and interpretation of terms ‘theory of mind’ and its implied psychological behaviours. However, I am inclined toward accepting the romantic explanation of animal cognition. I can provide some reasons but the main one is based on evolution and the similarities between human (as an animal) and other species of animals (here, chimps and crows).

First of all, having theory of mind or having insight are not sort of ‘type’ with only one ‘token’ (say human mind). Accepting that human mind evolved over millions of years opens the window of interpreting evidences and experiments (like what has been provided in the ‘Does chimpanzee have a theory of mind’) in the same way as we do human experiments. Josep Call and Michael Tomasello in ‘Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind - 30 years later’ (2008) used similar notions to study chimps as it is being used to study human traits in society: to compete, to cooperate, and to anticipate future actions.

Accepting a broad interpretation of the ‘theory of mind’ and based on the experiments they designed and conducted which studies chimps’ understanding of goals and intentions, and understanding of perception and knowledge, they concluded (and emphasised that only this conclusion is reasonable based on the totality of the studies and results) that chimps like humans have a theory of mind. However, as they mentioned, there are differences between what chimps and humans belied-desire psychology. However, they also provided their conclusion that under a narrow interpretation of the theory of mind (that I would say specifies this notion to humans only) chimps has no theory of mind. 

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