Lorenz on theory of mind module?

From: Scott Chase (osteopilus@yahoo.com)
Date: Mon 04 Apr 2005 - 00:41:58 GMT

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    In their book _Not By Genes Alone_ (p. 136) Richerson and Boyd talk about a "theory of mind module" which
    "is required for observational learning" according to some psychologists. In the context of what Richerson and Boyd are referring to imitation and cumulative cultural evolution could supposedly rely upon possession of this putative module.

    In his so-called Russian Manuscript Konrad Lorenz seems to have thought about a similar cognitive organ, but in terms of evolutionized Kantian philosophy and the nascent field of ethology or comparative behavioral research. Lorenz wrote (p. 159): "From an epistemological point of view, the immediate
    *obviousness* of the existence of experiencing fellow subjects is closely related to innate "a priori" forms of thought and interpretation."

    Lorenz continues (p. 160): "Now our innate forms of experience, which permit us to experience certain life expressions of other beings immediately as something spiritual, possess the character of so-called *innate releasing patterns*."

    He goes on to say that these patterns relate to our psychological tendency to anthropomorphize and how this tendency can have erroneous results when
    "*projected* onto *nonhuman* organisms and even onto organic objects." An example he provides is how the physical features of a eagle are interpreted as
    "bold". Just look at a symbol of the United States ;-)

    One might even wonder if this "innate schema" could be activated in the case of someone looking at genes and memes.

    Anyway it looks at least superficially like Lorenz is hinting at the same thing, although cruder, that Richerson and Boyd have (ie a theory of mind module). Lorenz is showing the drawbacks of such a schema when it misfires on animals and other objects of the environment to which we might attribute human characteristics, where Richerson and Boyd address the importance of such a module in the advent of cultural evolution via cumulative adaption resulting from imitation of others.


    Konrad Lorenz. 1996. The Natural Science of the Human Species. The MIT Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts

    Peter Richerson and Robert Boyd. 2005. Not By Genes Alone. The University of Chicago Press. Chicago

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