Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Does the Chimpanzee Have Theory of Mind?

  • Adam SeeEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_3117-1


A landmark paper in the philosophy and science of animal minds. David Premack and Guy Woodruff (1978) describe a series of innovative experiments with an adult chimpanzee, Sarah, whom the authors conclude can attribute mental states to her trainers.


Premack and Woodruff’s “Does the Chimpanzee Have a Theory of Mind?” was published in 1978. It is amongst the most anthologized papers in the wide variety of disciplines that constitute contemporary animal studies. In the article, a single adult chimpanzee named Sarah is the subject of a series of experiments designed to assess her ability to attribute mental states such as goals, intentions, knowledge, and ignorance to humans. This general ability is indicative of a theory of mind or mindreading– a capacity long thought to be unique to our species. Premack and Woodruff concluded that Sarah did, in fact, possess a theory of mind. While the author’s methods were widely respected, their conclusion was subject to...


Logical Problem Behavioral Rule Mental State Attribution Adult Chimpanzee Animal Mind 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CUNY Graduate CenterNew YorkUSA