, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 19-59
Date: 16 Sep 2010

Belief Attribution in Animals: On How to Move Forward Conceptually and Empirically

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Abstract

There is considerable debate in comparative psychology and philosophy over whether nonhuman animals can attribute beliefs. The empirical studies that suggest that they can are shown to be inconclusive, and the main philosophical and empirical arguments that purport to show they cannot are shown to be invalid or weak. What is needed to move the debate and the field forward, it is argued, is a fundamentally new experimental protocol for testing belief attribution in animals, one capable of distinguishing genuine belief-attributing subjects from their perceptual-state attributing and behavior-reading counterparts. Such a protocol is outlined and defended. The rest, it is argued, is in the hands of experimentalists.