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Minimal Theory of Mind

Which models of minds and actions underpin which mental state tracking processes?



of mindreading

To make progress in understanding how minds might be intelligible to chimpanzees, we need to reject a dogma. The dogma is that there is one model of the mental and mindreading involves the use of that model. Or, more carefully (to accommodate Wellman et al), the dogma is that there is either just one model or else a family of models where one of the models, the best and most sophisticated model, contains all of the states that are contained in any of the models.
[Is this way of putting is clearer? : the mental states included in each model are a subset of the mental states included in the best, most sophisticated model. (The idea is that there is a model containing all the states in the union of the sets of states contained in each model.) ]
Lots of researchers’ views and arguments depend on this dogma. But I think you can see that the dogma is not something we should take for granted by drawing a parallel between mindreading and physical cognition.

Which model s of minds and actions underpin which mental state tracking processes?

An agent’s \emph{field} is a set of objects related to the agent by proximity, orientation and other factors.
First approximation: an agent \emph{encounters} an object just if it is in her field.
A \emph{goal} is an outcome to which one or more actions are, or might be, directed.
%(Not to be confused with a \emph{goal-state}, which is an intention or other state of an agent linking an action to a particular goal to which it is directed.)
\textbf{Principle 1}: one can’t goal-directedly act on an object unless one has encountered it.
Applications: subordinate chimps retrieve food when a dominant is not informed of its location \citep{Hare:2001ph}; when observed scrub-jays prefer to cache in shady, distant and occluded locations \citep{Dally:2004xf,Clayton:2007fh}.
First approximation: an agent \emph{registers} an object at a location just if she most recently encountered the object at that location.
A registration is \emph{correct} just if the object is at the location it is registered at.
\textbf{Principle 2}: correct registration is a condition of successful action.
Applications: 12-month-olds point to inform depending on their informants’ goals and ignorance \citep{Liszkowski:2008al}; chimps retrieve food when a dominant is misinformed about its location \citep{Hare:2001ph}; scrub-jays observed caching food by a competitor later re-cache in private \citep{Clayton:2007fh,Emery:2007ze}.
\textbf{Principle 3}: when an agent performs a goal-directed action and the goal specifies an object, the agent will act as if the object were actually in the location she registers it at.
Applications: some false belief tasks \citep{Onishi:2005hm,Southgate:2007js,Buttelmann:2009gy}.
Shift from thinking about registration as conditions on success of actions to causes which set parameters for action.


Minimal theory of mind specifics a model of minds and actions,

one which could in principle explain how certain mindreading processes trade accuracy for speed.


Automatic mindreading processes are characterised by a minimal model of minds and actions.