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Friday, July 29, 2016

Do Animals Understand Ignorance?

Are We the Only Animals That Understand Ignorance?

Two psychologists argue that while apes and monkeys can think about the minds of others, they lack one crucial ability that only humans have.

Ed Yong | July 28, 2016

You’re holding a surprise party for a friend. The door opens, the lights flick on, everyone leaps out... and your friend stands there silent and unmoved. Now, you’re the one who’s surprised. You assumed she had no idea, and based on that, you made a (wrong) prediction about how she would react. You were counting on her ignorance. This ability to understand that someone else might be missing certain information about the world comes so naturally to us that describing it feels mundane and trite.
And yet, according to two psychologists, it’s a skill that only humans have. “We think monkeys can’t do that,” says Alia Martin from Victoria University of Wellington.


<more at; related articles and links: (Humans not smarter than animals, just different, experts say. December 4, 2013) and (What Cognitive Representations Support Primate Theory of Mind? Alia martin and Laurie R. Santos. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Volume 20, Issue 5, p375–382, May 2016. DOI: [Summary: Much recent work has examined the evolutionary origins of human mental state representations. This work has yielded strikingly consistent results: primates show a sophisticated ability to track the current and past perceptions of others, but they fail to represent the beliefs of others. We offer a new account of the nuanced performance of primates in theory of mind (ToM) tasks. We argue that primates form awareness relations tracking the aspects of reality that other agents are aware of. We contend that these awareness relations allow primates to make accurate predictions in social situations, but that this capacity falls short of our human-like representational ToM. We end by explaining how this new account makes important new empirical predictions about primate ToM.])>

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