Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

pp 1-5

Date: Latest Version

Guesser-Knower Paradigm

  • Christopher KrupenyeAffiliated withDepartment of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology Email author 


Experimental procedure designed to investigate organisms’ understanding of others’ mental states, particularly discrimination of knowledgeable vs ignorant informants, in a cooperative-communicative context.


Humans are highly skilled mind readers; that is, we have the ability to think about others’ internal mental states, such as desires and beliefs. This skill is known as theory of mind or mind reading. Theory of mind informs our attempts to interpret, predict, and even manipulate others’ behavior and thus is central to much of our social interaction, including our strategies for communication, cooperation and competition, empathy, and deception. For several decades – since Premack and Woodruff (1978) asked the seminal question, “Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind?” – researchers have been attempting to determine whether this critical human skill is unique to our species. Over the years, a variety of elegant paradigms have been developed in the service of th ...

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