Reading other minds

Juliane Kaminski*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Humans have the ability to attribute mental states to others: that is, to attempt to predict others' knowledge, desires, beliefs and their consequences. Theory of Mind (ToM)-related skills can be differentiated into three classes: understanding others' perception (e.g., attention, visual or auditory perspective, etc.), understanding others' motivation (e.g., others' goals, intentions, etc.) and understanding others' knowledge (e.g., others' beliefs). One ability that is seen as a benchmark for mental state attribution, and therefore theory of mind, is the understanding that others have beliefs and that those beliefs can be true or false. From an evolutionary perspective it is interesting that the most convincing evidence for flexible social cognitive skills comes from two very distantly related groups of species: apes and corvids. Similar social cognitive skills therefore may be an adaptation to similar socio-ecological challenges in the social life of these species, for example, in navigating competition over resources and life in a complex social society.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Evolutionary Neuroscience
EditorsStephen V. Shepherd
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781118316757
ISBN (Print)9781119994695
Publication statusPublished - 23 Dec 2016


  • Apes
  • Corvids
  • Humans
  • Mental state attribution
  • Mind reading
  • Social cognitive skills
  • Socio-ecological challenges
  • Theory of mind


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