A beautiful mind: Attribution and intentionality in wild bonnet macaques

Publication Type:

Journal Article

Authors:

Anindya Sinha

Source:

Current Science, Volume 85, Number 7, p.1021–1030 (2003)

URL:

http://eprints.nias.res.in/3/

Abstract:

Empirical and observational studies of animal cogni- tion will truly benefit if different behavioural manifes- tations of higher cognitive processes can be defined functionally. This is vitally important because, when studying animals, cognition has to necessarily manifest in behaviour for it to be tractable, and the performance of such behaviour, in turn, needs to be unambiguously ascribed to an effect of particular cognitive processes. One theoretical framework to investigate cognition in animals in terms of mentalistic notions is that of the intentional stance, which assumes that each individual is an intentional system capable of mental states like beliefs, desires and emotions. To attribute such mental states to both oneself and to others is to have what has been termed a theory of mind. Social primates appear to be knowledgeable about one another's behaviour to different extents. But do they know as much about one another's beliefs and intentions? Are they adept at recognizing the similarities and differences between their own and others' states of mind? Attribution of mental states to other individuals could manifest itself in diverse situations as, for example, when individual animals closely observe the actions of others, when they interact competitively, or when they deceive each other in the social sphere. Such behavioural constructs need to be analysed carefully in order to ascertain whether true higher-order intentionality can indeed be invoked as underlying mechanisms governing these acts. This article examines the possible cognitive bases of social knowledge-based decision-making and tactical deception, processes that appear to be integral to the development and maintenance of social relationships in wild bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata), a primate species endemic to peninsular India.

Notes:

The Copyright belongs to Indian Academy of Sciences.