Theory of Mind in Animals

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Synonyms

Mental state attribution; Mindreading

Definition

Premack and Woodruff (1978) defined possessing a theory of mind as the ability to attribute mental states to oneself and others. Three main categories of mental states have been distinguished: perceptual, epistemic, and volitional. Perceptual mental states include things like seeing and attending. Epistemic states include things like thoughts, knowledge, and beliefs. Volitional states include intentions, goals, and desires.

Theoretical Background

When humans observe another individual witnessing an event, they encode information about the individual’s body and face orientation, the presence and nature of objects, and the spatial relation between the observer and the objects. Additionally, they also infer that observers are capable (or incapable) of seeing something. Whereas it is undisputed that nonhumans process information of the first kind, researchers disagree on whether they also infer men