Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be an animal? This series gives startling and revelatory answers. Combining jaw-dropping demonstrations of animals' abilities with revealing photography, Chris Packham travels the world to uncover the secrets of the animal mind.
Runtime: 60 minutes
Inside the Animal Mind - Theory of mind in animals - Netflix
Theory of mind in animals is an extension to non-human animals of the philosophical and psychological concept of theory of mind (ToM), sometimes known as mentalisation or mind-reading. It involves an inquiry into whether animals have the ability to attribute mental states (such as intention, desires, pretending, knowledge) to themselves and others, including recognition that others have mental states that are different from their own. To investigate this issue experimentally, researchers place animals in situations where their resulting behavior can be interpreted as supporting ToM or not. The existence of theory of mind in animals is controversial. On the one hand, one hypothesis proposes that some animals have complex cognitive processes which allow them to attribute mental states to other individuals, sometimes called “mind-reading”. A second, more parsimonious, hypothesis proposes that animals lack these skills and that they depend instead on more simple learning processes such as associative learning; or in other words, they are simply behaviour-reading. Several studies have been designed specifically to test whether animals possess theory of mind by using interspecific or intraspecific communication. Several taxa have been tested including primates, birds and canines. Positive results have been found; however, these are often qualified as showing only low-grade ToM, or rejected as not convincing by other researchers.
Inside the Animal Mind - Other primates - Netflix
In one approach testing monkeys, rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) are able to “steal” a contested grape from one of two human competitors. In six experiments, the macaques selectively stole the grape from a human who was incapable of seeing the grape, rather than from the human who was visually aware. The authors suggest that rhesus macaques possess an essential component of ToM: the ability to deduce what others perceive on the basis of where they are looking. Similarly, free ranging rhesus macaques preferentially choose to steal food items from locations where they can be less easily observed by humans, or where they will make less noise. A comparative psychology approach tested six species of captive NHPs (three species of great apes: orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, and three species of old-world monkeys: lion-tailed macaques (Macaca silenus), rhesus macaques and collared mangabeys (Cercocebus torquatus)) in a “hide and seek” game in which the NHPs played against a human opponent. In each trial, the NHP has to infer where food has been hidden (either in their right or left hand) by the human opponent. In general, the NHPs failed the test (whereas humans did not), but surprisingly, performances between the NHP species did not reveal any inter-species differences. The authors also reported that at least one individual of each of the species showed (weak) evidence of ToM. In a multi-species study, it was shown that chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans passed the False Belief Test (see above). In 2009, a summary of the ToM research, particularly emphasising an extensive comparison of humans, chimpanzees and orang-utans, concluded that great apes do not exhibit understanding of human referential intentions expressed in communicative gestures, such as pointing.