Workshop on Kristin Andrews "Do apes read minds?: Toward a new folk psychology" and philosophy of animal minds


  • Kristin Andrews "Folk Psychology as Person Reading"

    Typically, folk psychology is understood narrowly as mindreading - attributing beliefs and desires to others. I defend a new way of understanding folk psychology that is informed by social psychology, developmental psychology, and comparative cognition research. On this view, the folk do not understand one another primarily as receptacles of propositional attitudes, but rather as whole persons with histories, social contexts, personalities, moods, emotions, and so forth. The folk person-read rather than mind-read. Folk psychology is pluralistic in two dimensions - there are different kinds of practices (e.g. prediction, explanation, justification, coordination, regulation) and different cognitive tools (e.g. stereotype building and activation, personality trait attribution, mood or emotion attribution, knowledge about the situation, inductive reasoning about past behavior, generalization from self, as well as propositional attitude attribution) that can be involved in a particular folk psychological act.

    I will present three implications of this view for research in animal cognition and the evolution of mindreading. First, I argue that our understanding of others' beliefs and desires is derivative of person reading, and I argue that the need to think about beliefs and desires is rare - one that arises, for example, when a person deviates from expected behavior, or violates the norms of society. In this spirit, I will defend the view that mindreading evolved after the species developed social norms. Second, I argue that the theory of mind research program on great apes has been flawed due to its problematic assumption that mindreading evolved in order to help individuals better predict behavior, rather than to explain behavior. Finally, I will argue that folk psychology is an essential part of animal cognition research, and I will present a middle ground between unwarranted anthropomorphism and human exceptionalism. I will argue that the use of folk psychology need not involve a problematic anthropomorphism. I will show how the animal cognition research benefits by appeal to folk psychology by discussing the study the psychologist Anne Russon and I conducted on orangutan pantomime communication (Russon and Andrews 2010).

  • Brian Huss "Anthropomorphism, Anthropectomy, and the Null Hypothesis in Animal Cognition Research"

    We examine the claim that the methodology of psychology leads to a bias in animal cognition research against attributing "anthropomorphic" properties to animals (Sober 2005, de Waal 1999). This charge is examined in light of a debate on the role of folk psychology between primatologists who emphasize similarities between humans and other apes, and those who emphasize differences. We argue that there is bias, either in the formulation of the null hypothesis or in the preference of Type-II errors over Type-I errors, depending on how such errors are formulated. Unlike Sober, we don't think that the bias is the simple result of using the methodological rule of thumb that Type-II errors are to be preferred to Type-I errors; we argue that the deeper methodological problem stems from the fact that there is no principled way to choose a null hypothesis in animal cognition research. Psychologists' preference for false negatives over false positives cannot justify a preference for avoiding anthropomorphic errors over anthropectic (Gk. anthropos - human; ectomy - to cut out) errors.

  • Hisashi Nakao "Why did the attribution of propositional attitudes evolve?"

    Andrews' Do Apes Read Minds? is very clear and interesting, and highly recommendable not only for philosophers of mind, psychology, and biology but also for developmental, social, evolutionary, and comparative psychologists. In this book, she argues that the standard folk psychology (SFP) is misguided because our actual folk psychological behaviors are more varied and not fully described in terms of attribution of propositional attitudes. Moreover, while SFP argues that folk psychological prediction and explanation require propositional attitude attribution, she argue that they do not necessarily. Although I agree with the basic line of her argument, however, as even many great books often do so, this book also contains some ambiguities and problems. I will point out such problems especially in her story on the evolution of the capacity for belief-desire attribution.

    Also I will raise a question with Huss' talk. He and Andrews assume that for selective skeptics, the null hypothesis is that "animals do not have human-like cognitive systems, social relations, or normative properties". However, it may be not the case. I argue that selective skeptics do not necessarily need to depend on such skeptic null hypothesis for sustaining selective skeptic stance.

  • Kei Yoshida "Andrews on the Social Intelligence Hypothesis"

    In Do Apes Read Minds? Kristin Andrews criticizes the standard folk psychology (SFP) and investigates a possibility of a pluralistic folk psychology. According to her, SFP is mistaken because it overemphasizes the importance of propositional attitudes; however, in order to predict or explain others' behavior, not only beliefs and desires, but also factors such as emotions, moods, personality traits, stereotypes, and situations must be taken into account. In this regard, Andrews aims not at reading minds, but at reading people holistically. The aim of my talk is to investigate implications of her project. In particular, I shall examine Andrews's view on the social intelligence hypothesis, according to which we developed the moral sense prior to the ability of attributing propositional attitudes. I shall compare and contrast it with other views of the social intelligence hypothesis.