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Curr Biol. 2005 Mar 8;15(5):447-52.

Rhesus monkeys attribute perceptions to others.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA. jonathan.flombaum@yale.edu

Abstract

Paramount among human cognitive abilities is the capacity to reason about what others think, want, and see--a capacity referred to as a theory of mind (ToM). Despite its importance in human cognition, the extent to which other primates share human ToM capacities has for decades remained a mystery. To date, primates [1, 2] have performed poorly in behavioral tasks that require ToM abilities, despite the fact that some macaques are known to encode social stimuli at the level of single neurons [3-5]. Here, we presented rhesus macaques with a more ecologically relevant ToM task in which subjects could "steal" a contested grape from one of two human competitors. In six experiments, monkeys selectively retrieved the grape from an experimenter who was incapable of seeing the grape rather than an experimenter who was visually aware. These results suggest that rhesus macaques possess an essential component of ToM: the ability to deduce what others perceive on the basis of where they are looking. These results converge with new findings illustrating the importance of competitive paradigms in apes [6]. Moreover, they raise the possibility that, in primates, cortical cells thought to encode where others are looking [7] may encode what those individuals see as well.

PMID:
15753039
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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