Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 305–321

The theory of mind module in evolutionary psychology

  • Philip Gerrans

DOI: 10.1023/A:1020183525825

Cite this article as:
Gerrans, P. Biology & Philosophy (2002) 17: 305. doi:10.1023/A:1020183525825


Evolutionary Psychology is based on the idea that the mind is a set of special purpose thinking devices or modules whose domain-specific structure is an adaptation to ancestral environments. The modular view of the mind is an uncontroversial description of the periphery of the mind, the input-output sensorimotor and affective subsystems. The novelty of EP is the claim that higher order cognitive processes also exhibit a modular structure. Autism is a primary case study here, interpreted as a developmental failure of a module devoted to social intelligence or Theory of Mind. In this article I reappraise the arguments for innate modularity of TOM and argue that they fail. TOM ability is a consequence of domain general development scaffolded by early, innately specified, sensorimotor abilities. The alleged Modularity of TOM results from interpreting the outcome of developmental failures characteristic of autism at too high a level of cognitive abstraction.

Theory of Mind Evolutionary Psychology Autism Modularity 

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip Gerrans
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyAdelaide UniversityAdelaideAustralia