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A test of the submentalizing hypothesis: apes' performance in a false belief task inanimate control

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Christopher Krupenye, Fumihiro Kano, Satoshi Hirata, Josep Call, Michael Tomasello

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Much debate concerns whether any nonhuman animals share with humans the ability to infer others' mental states, such as desires and beliefs. In a recent eye-tracking false-belief task, we showed that great apes correctly anticipated that a human actor would search for a goal object where he had last seen it, even though the apes themselves knew that it was no longer there. In response, Heyes proposed that apes' looking behavior was guided not by social cognitive mechanisms but rather domain-general cueing effects, and suggested the use of inanimate controls to test this alternative submentalizing hypothesis. In the present study, we implemented the suggested inanimate control of our previous false-belief task. Apes attended well to key events but showed markedly fewer anticipatory looks and no significant tendency to look to the correct location. We thus found no evidence that submentalizing was responsible for apes' anticipatory looks in our false-belief task.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1343771
JournalCommunicative and Integrative Biology
Issue number4
Early online date5 Jul 2017
StatePublished - Sep 2017

    Research areas

  • Great ape, Social cognition, Submentalizing, Mentalizing, False belief understanding, Theory of mind, Cognitive evolution

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