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Are human the only animals with theory of mind - Essay Example

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Are human the only animals with theory of mind

Even though Bead seems to be right in giving the above statements, yet, it is contradicted by the “Cognitivist” view in certain aspects. Firstly, the Cognitivist view states that non-human animals already possess beliefs, concepts, etc. Secondly, primatologists claim that apes have “Theory of mind”, they are self-conscious and they can learn some basics of language even1. There are certain theorists who claim that since humans have evolved from apes, humans have more of what apes already possess. Since beliefs, concepts etc are already possessed by apes, humans have more of these, as per evolutionary evidence. Other theorists however, claim that there is a sharp discontinuity between apes and humans. They state that humans possess certain cognitive abilities which apes do not, like “language instinct” or “higher-order representations”2. Though this theory reveals some noticeable differences between apes and us, yet it could not establish the evolutionary basis of how such differences arose. Mead has stated that animals cannot take the position of the other; when such statements are made or such questions are raised it is to be kept in mind that we are dealing with animal consciousness or experience. Making such statements is not quite acceptable because, we really do not know what other animals actually experience. Here, first, we should question ourselves, if at all we have the complete competency to study animal mind. We do not know what it is like to be an elephant, a bat or a whale because we are not those; however, we can say that may be we know what it is like to be a mammal. Theories, so far have mainly focused on higher cognitive capabilities, using linguistics and computer based models. The more basic cognitive tasks which we share with other animals are not yet being researched in detail 3. Fred Dretske suggests an example: certain birds avoid eating Monarch butterfly, since it cannot be digested by them. These birds are also intelligent enough to even avoid those butterflies which mimic Monarch in appearance. These birds have must have interpreted something internally in their mind, manifestation of which is clearly evident in their actions or behaviors. This is sufficient proof to claim that birds have beliefs and concepts4. Irene Pepperberg conducted certain experiment with a bird named Alex, findings of which are most interesting. Experiment was about match-to-sample and non-match-to-sample. The aim of the experiment was specifically to know if Alex could give right response not only to definite patterns, properties of stimuli; but also to categories; for example, not only recognizing what is ‘green’ or not but also recognizing the relation amid a green pen and a blade of grass. The bird was well trained to give correct answers to queries like ‘What color?’ , ‘What shape?’; by alternating these questions with ‘What’s this?’ etc. However, focus on the test objects was avoided because it would not give right inference about whether the response of the bird is based on stimuli-governed conditioning or by its conceptual representation. Results revealed that the animal was capable of dealing with an orderly object-property-representation which forms the core basis for any conceptual representation5. Though it can be concluded that certain animals possess conceptual repre ...Show more
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Summary

Are humans the only animals with theory of mind? According to “Theory of mind” ("ToM") proposed by George Herbert Mead, the human mind comprises of several mental states like beliefs, emotions, desires, intentions, perceptions, knowledge , etc which the mind uses to interpret and predict behavior of oneself and of others…
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