"Intelligence" has long been considered to be a feature unique to human beings, giving us the capacity to imagine, to think, to deceive, to make complex connections between cause and effect, to devise elaborate stategies for solving problems. However, like all our other features, intelligence is a product of evolutionary change. Until recently, it was difficult to obtain evidence of this process from the frail testimony of a few bones and stone tools. It has become clear in the last 15 (...) years that the origins of human intelligence can be investigated by the comparative study of primates, our closest non-human relatives, giving strong impetus to the case for an "evolutionary psychology", the scientific study of the mind. (shrink)
To explain social learning without invoking the cognitively complex concept of imitation, many learning mechanisms have been proposed. Borrowing an idea used routinely in cognitive psychology, we argue that most of these alternatives can be subsumed under a single process, priming, in which input increases the activation of stored internal representations. Imitation itself has generally been seen as a This has diverted much research towards the all-or-none question of whether an animal can imitate, with disappointingly inconclusive results. In the great (...) apes, however, voluntary, learned behaviour is organized hierarchically. This means that imitation can occur at various levels, of which we single out two clearly distinct ones: the a rather detailed and linear specification of sequential acts, and the a broader description of subroutine structure and the hierarchical layout of a behavioural Program level imitation is a high-level, constructive mechanism, adapted for the efficient learning of complex skills and thus not evident in the simple manipulations used to test for imitation in the laboratory. As examples, we describe the food-preparation techniques of wild mountain gorillas and the imitative behaviour of orangutans undergoing to the wild. Representing and manipulating relations between objects seems to be one basic building block in their hierarchical programs. There is evidence that great apes suffer from a stricter capacity limit than humans in the hierarchical depth of planning. We re-interpret some chimpanzee behaviour previously described as and suggest that all great apes may be able to imitate at the program level. Action level imitation is seldom observed in great ape skill learning, and may have a largely social role, even in humans. (shrink)
Language’s intentional nature has been highlighted as a crucial feature distinguishing it from other communication systems. Specifically, language is often thought to depend on highly structured intentional action and mutual mindreading by a communicator and recipient. Whilst similar abilities in animals can shed light on the evolution of intentionality, they remain challenging to detect unambiguously. We revisit animal intentional communication and suggest that progress in identifying analogous capacities has been complicated by (i) the assumption that intentional (that is, voluntary) production (...) of communicative acts requires mental-state attribution, and (ii) variation in approaches investigating communication across sensory modalities. To move forward, we argue that a framework fusing research across modalities and species is required. We structure intentional communication into a series of requirements, each of which can be operationalised, investigated empirically, and must be met for purposive, intentionally communicative acts to be demonstrated. Our unified approach helps elucidate the distribution of animal intentional communication and subsequently serves to clarify what is meant by attributions of intentional communication in animals and humans. (shrink)
Comparative analysis of the behavior of modern primates, in conjunction with an accurate phylogenetic tree of relatedness, has the power to chart the early history of human cognitive evolution. Adaptive cognitive changes along this path occurred, it is believed, in response to various forms of complexity; to some extent, theories that relate particular challenges to cognitive adaptations can also be tested against comparative data on primate ecology and behavior. This paper explains the procedures by which data are employed, and uses (...) the best currently available evidence to derive a proposal for some of the stages through which human cognition evolved, before the last common ancestor with a nonhuman, and the reasons that cognitive adaptations were favored in primate evolution. (shrink)
'Insight' is not a very popular word in psychology or biology. Popular terms-like "intelligence", "planning", "complexity" or "cognitive"- have a habit of sprawling out to include everyone's favourite interpretation, and end up with such vague meanings that each new writer has to redefine them for use. Insight remains in everyday usage: as a down-to-earth, lay term for a deep, shrewd or discerning kind of understanding. Insight is a good thing to have, so it's important to find out how it evolved, (...) and that's what this book is about. Coming 20 years after publication of Richard Byrne's seminal book The Thinking Ape, Evolving Insight develops a new theory of the evolutionary origins of human abilities to understand the world of objects and other people. Defining mental representation and computation as 'insight', it reviews the evidence for insight in the cognition of animals. (shrink)
Imitation research has been hindered by (1) overly molecular analyses of behaviour that ignore hierarchical structure, and (2) attempts to disqualify observational evidence. Program-level imitation is one of a range of cognitive skills for scheduling efficient novel behaviour, in particular, enabling an individual to purloin the organization of another's behaviour for its own. To do so, the individual must perceive the underlying hierarchical schedule of the fluid action it observes and must understand the local functions of subroutines within the overall (...) goal-directed process. Action-level imitation, copying strings of actions linearly without any such understanding, is less valuable for acquiring complex behaviour and may often have other, social functions. At present, we lack a mechanistic understanding of the abilities underlying program-level imitation that make it possible for the underlying structure of complex actions to be dissected visually and recreated in behaviour. (shrink)
Rather than dealing with the important issues in the interpretation of behavioural data, Heyes seems only to reiterate lessons well-learned before she first reviewed the topic of primate deception. She also appears to misrepresent a series of published analyses. Despite her emphatic denials, the commonsense view is the best: informed observations and experiments can both provide evidence of theory of mind.