[Neuroscience] Re: Chimps Have a Theory of Mind?

Glen M. Sizemore via neur-sci%40net.bio.net (by gmsizemore2 from yahoo.com)
Sun Apr 13 08:56:26 EST 2008

"z" <gzuckier from snail-mail.net> wrote in message 
news:43a876e0-758c-475b-be11-b686641297cd from k13g2000hse.googlegroups.com...
On Apr 4, 4:31 pm, "Glen M. Sizemore" <gmsizemo... from yahoo.com> wrote:
> "z" <gzuck... from snail-mail.net> wrote in message
> news:d37cbd28-fbe3-4195-813f-c0a57b4acb62 from b1g2000hsg.googlegroups.com...
> On Apr 1, 5:42 am, "John Hasenkam" <jo... from goawayplease.com> wrote:
> > So now we find that chimps have a "theory of mind", this concept 
> > typically
> > invoked when describing symptoms of autism(ie. autistics lack it). Does
> > that
> > mean there are autistic chimps? King Kong?
> > Perhaps this is one for Joseph Campbell, he might have something to say
> > about theory of mind. After all, he was the whiz kid in mythology.
> > Who's Bad? Chimps Figure It Out By Observation
> > Who's Bad? Chimps Figure It Out By Observation
> >http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080326095411.htm
> > ScienceDaily (Mar. 31, 2008) - Chimpanzees make judgments about the
> > actions
> > and dispositions of strangers by observing others' behavior and
> > interactions
> > in different situations. Specifically, chimpanzees show an ability to
> > recognize certain behavioral traits and make assumptions about the
> > presence
> > or absence of these traits in strangers in similar situations 
> > thereafter.
> > These findings are by Dr. Francys Subiaul - from the George Washington
> > University in Washington DC - and his team.
> GZ: hmm. this is one of those things where i don't know whether to say, in
> a know it all sarcastic fashion, 'gee, you mean that evolution might
> find it advantageous to be able to predict the behavior of others in a
> general way?' or 'gee, you mean that the creatures most closely
> related to us have similar abilities for things which are strongly
> advantageous evolutionarily?'
> GS: Or perhaps you should say "What sort of dimwit is so careless with
> language that they claim that chimps have a theory of anything? " The 
> answer
> is, unfortunately, all of cognitive "science." Iknow a bunch of rats that
> press levers - do they have a theory? What is gained by such insipid
> nonsense? Oh, BTW, what makes it necessarily the domain strictly of
> evolution? Are there any ontogenic histories necessary? Or if one 
> witnesses
> any kind of behavior does one just automatically point to evolution? An
> alternative notion is that evolution produced more-or-less general 
> learning
> mechanisms. So, while true that evolution is ALWAYS involved in behavior, 
> it
> is probably not true that there is a "module" for every kind of behavior
> that can be distinguished as evolutionary psychology seems to indicate.- 
> Hide quoted text -
> - Show quoted text -

Z: well, that's where Skinner was coming from, of course. what is the
point of hypothetical constructs inside the black box of an organism
when all that can be seen/measured is stimulus and response?

GS: No, I'm afraid you are incorrect. Skinner's and others' point was more 
that hypothetical  constructs should be avoided where the ONLY evidence for 
the alleged existence of a a thing is the very behavior that it is said to 
explain. One way to look at this is that the name of the hypothetical 
construct bears, to the observations it is said to explain, the exact same 
relationship that, say, the word "chair" bears to chairs. We do not say, 
generally, that the word chair is evidence of "chairness." No, chair is 
simply a name for a thing, exactly as mental terms are names for behavioral 
observations. Secondly, your "...all that can be seen/measured is stimulus 
and response" is as sophomoric a description as one can find.

Z: what
advantage is there of saying "lack of food generates a hunger drive
that initiates a feeding response which is manifested as feeding
behavior" over saying "lack of food causes feeding behavior"?

GS: Indeed. The latter is better because it focuses only on the known cause. 
The former does to, but it is an easy step to eliminate the reference to the 
observable, manipulable cause - the food deprivation - and become fixated 
upon the explanatory fiction. Further, a focus on the latter does not 
preclude an analysis of the physiology that underlies the behavioral effect. 
When the physiology is all but unobserved, talk about some physiological 
drive says nothing more than that the behavioral observation (i.e., 
food-deprivation leads to eating) is mediated physiologically. In the case 
of nonsense like "theories of mind," the same thing prevails. There are the 
observations of the chimp's behavior, and there is the name given it. 

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