What Is Meant By A Theory Of Mind? Essay

1834 Words Nov 12th, 2016 8 Pages
To address this question, it is helpful to define what is meant by a ‘theory of mind’ (ToM). This proposes that people, and perhaps other animals, have the capability of understanding that others have a mental state which is separate, and perhaps different, from their own. Premack and Woodruff (1978, p.515) cited in The Open University (2016, p.86) first described this as ‘an individual has a theory of mind if he imputes mental states to himself and others’. For example, I know my team has scored at football, but my friend does not know that yet. I can theorise that he has, in this case, not just a mental state, but also a different mental state (which is also a false belief). That awareness demonstrates theory of mind (or more accurately, theory of ‘other’s’ minds).
One of the most prominent pieces of research done to explore ToM in non-human animals is Premack and Woodruff (1978) ‘Does the Chimpanzee have a theory of mind?’ The study abstract explains that Premack and Woodruff attempted to demonstrate that chimpanzees had an understanding of what a person was trying to achieve through showing a series of problems on video that a person was trying to solve. In each case the video was stopped before the problem was resolved and the chimpanzee given a choice of several photographs (note: the study abstract states “several” not just two) one of which showed the correct solution. The experiment consistently resulted in the chimpanzee choosing the correct solution.
Premack and…
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