Synthese 199 (1-2):1347-1385 (2020)

Several evolutionary accounts of human social cognition posit that language has co-evolved with the sophisticated mindreading abilities of modern humans. It has also been argued that these mindreading abilities are the product of cultural, rather than biological, evolution. Taken together, these claims suggest that the evolution of language has played an important role in the cultural evolution of human social cognition. Here we present a new computational model which formalises the assumptions that underlie this hypothesis, in order to explore how language and mindreading interact through cultural evolution. This model treats communicative behaviour as an interplay between the context in which communication occurs, an agent’s individual perspective on the world, and the agent’s lexicon. However, each agent’s perspective and lexicon are private mental representations, not directly observable to other agents. Learners are therefore confronted with the task of jointly inferring the lexicon and perspective of their cultural parent, based on their utterances in context. Simulation results show that given these assumptions, an informative lexicon evolves not just under a pressure to be successful at communicating, but also under a pressure for accurate perspective-inference. When such a lexicon evolves, agents become better at inferring others’ perspectives; not because their innate ability to learn about perspectives changes, but because sharing a language with others helps them to do so.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories No categories specified
(categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11229-020-02798-7
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,163
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Meaning.H. Paul Grice - 1957 - Philosophical Review 66 (3):377-388.
Logic and Conversation.H. P. Grice - 1975 - In Donald Davidson & Gilbert Harman (eds.), The Logic of Grammar. Encino, CA: pp. 64-75.

View all 41 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Modeling Co‐Evolution of Speech and Biology.Bart Boer - 2016 - Topics in Cognitive Science 8 (2):459-468.
Mindreading, Mindshaping, and Evolution.Matteo Mameli - 2001 - Biology and Philosophy 16 (5):595-626.
The Cultural Evolution of Mind-Modelling.Richard Moore - 2020 - Synthese 199 (1-2):1751-1776.
Evolution, Communication and the Proper Function of Language.Gloria Origgi & Dan Sperber - 2000 - In Peter Carruthers & Andrew Chamberlain (eds.), Evolution and the Human Mind: Language, Modularity and Social Cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 140--169.
Embodied Cognition and Mindreading.Shannon Spaulding - 2010 - Mind and Language 25 (1):119-140.


Added to PP index

Total views
8 ( #1,006,486 of 2,506,844 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #209,726 of 2,506,844 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes