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Mindreading AnimalsThe Debate over What Animals Know about Other Minds$
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Robert W. Lurz

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780262016056

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262016056.001.0001

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Mindreading in Animals: Its Importance and History

Mindreading in Animals: Its Importance and History

(p.1) 1 Mindreading in Animals: Its Importance and History
Mindreading Animals

Robert W. Lurz

The MIT Press

The question of whether nonhuman animals read minds—that is, whether they are able to attribute mental states, such as intentions, beliefs, and perceptual experiences, to others by observing their behaviors within environmental contexts—has been the subject of considerable debate for more than three decades now. On one side are those who claim that some animals are mindreaders and on the other side are those who reject such a theory. This chapter explains some of the reasons why the question of mindreading in nonhuman primates is important to cognitive science and philosophy. Animal mindreading is relevant, for example to the “Machiavellian intelligence hypothesis” or “social brain hypothesis,” an influential hypothesis about the evolution of nonhuman animal intelligence. The chapter also summarizes the history of the debate over this issue, its current state of stalemate, and what must be done to advance it.

Keywords:   Machiavellian intelligence hypothesis, social brain hypothesis, evolution, primates, animal intelligence, mindreading, nonhuman animals, mental states, cognitive science

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