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Talks by Michael Tomasello

Author:movellan @ March 31st, 2009 Comments Off

The Cognitive Science Distinguished Speaker Series presents
Michael Tomasello, Ph.D.,
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

Collaboration and Communication in Children and Chimpanzees
Monday, 6 April 2009, 4 – 6p
Center Hall 216

Human beings share many cognitive skills with their nearest primate relatives, especially those for dealing with the physical world of objects (and categories and quantities of objects) in space and their causal interrelations. But humans are in addition biologically adapted for cultural life in ways that other primates are not. Specifically, humans have evolved unique motivations and cognitive skills for understanding other persons as cooperative agents with whom one can share emotions, experience, and collaborative actions (shared intentionality). These motivations and skills first emerge in human ontogeny at around one year of age, as infants begin to participate with other persons in various kinds of collaborative and joint attentional activities. Participation in such activities leads humans to construct during ontogeny perspectival and dialogical cognitive representations

Chimpanzee Social Cognition
Tuesday, 7 April 2009, 11a – 12:15p
SSB 107

After years of debate about whether chimpanzees do or do not have a “theory of mind”, recent research suggests that the question must be asked in a more differentiated way. Thus, there is currently very good evidence that chimpanzees understand that others have goals, and even intentions in the sense that actors choose a behavioral means to their goal in light of the constraints of the situation. Similarly, there is currently very good evidence that chimpanzees understand that others see things, and even know things (in the sense of having seen them previously). Nevertheless, despite several seemingly valid attempts, there is currently no evidence that chimpanzees understand false beliefs. Our conclusion for the moment is thus that chimpanzees understand others in terms of a perception–goal psychology, as opposed to a full-fledged, human-like belief–desire psychology.