What Apes Know about Seeing

Authored by: Marta Halina

The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Animal Minds

Print publication date:  July  2017
Online publication date:  July  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138822887
eBook ISBN: 9781315742250
Adobe ISBN:


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Humans are able to infer what objects another agent can or cannot see, given that other agent’s point of view. Psychologists refer to this as level 1 visual perspective taking (Flavell 1974). Visual perspective taking is generally characterized as a form of mindreading because it requires that an individual reason about the perceptual states of other agents. Mindreading, in turn, is thought to underlie many other important cognitive abilities, such as empathy, self-awareness, and even phenomenal consciousness (Baron-Cohen 1997; Carruthers 2009; Apperly 2011). Given this, there has been much interest in the question of whether our nearest primate relatives, such as chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), have visual perspective taking abilities. Over the last decade, comparative psychologists have conducted many experiments with the aim of determining this. The results of these experiments have been mainly positive, leading some researchers to conclude that chimpanzees are capable of this form of mindreading (see Call and Tomasello 2008 for a review).

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