CARTA: Mind Reading: Human Origins and Theory of Mind

745The Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA) brings together top researchers from around the world to explore and explain the origins of the human phenomenon. This fall at the Salk Institute, they gathered to discuss, Mind Reading: Human Origins and Theory of Mind. 

The phrase “Theory of Mind” (ToM) has historically referred to the ability to impute mental states to oneself and others, but has been used in a variety of ways during the 35 years since the original Premack and Woodruff paper (1978). The analysis of ToM has been the subject of many papers in developmental psychology and in anthropogeny, the latter focusing on differences in mental performance between humans versus other mammals and birds. Because precise definition is necessary for rigorous scientific analysis, the first talk will focus on what ToM is. The rest of the talks will cover the Ontogeny of Human ToM, relevant information on other mammals and birds, and the neuronal correlates and mechanisms of human ToM performance.

Excerpt from CARTA 

25934The symposium begins with the topic of human brain development: What is Theory of Mind?, Emergence of Theory of Mind in Human Babies, and The Social Brain in Adolescence. Ralph Adolphs, professor of psychology and neuroscience and professor of biology at Caltech, offers his working definition of Theory of Mind. Next, with a little help from a clip of  cult classic The Princess Bride, Jessica Sommerville of the University of Washington delves into the topic of Emergence of Theory of Mind in Human Babies. Lastly, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore of University College London goes over the hilariously awkward topic of The Social Brain in Adolescence.

25935In the next hour the focus shifts to animals; “Mind Reading” in Chimpanzees, Comparing Apes and Dogs, and Reflections of Dolphin and Elephant Minds. Tetsuro Matsuzawa of Kyoto University shares his extensive research on chimpanzees, including videos and a live demonstration of their “language.” He is followed by Comparing Apes and Dogs with Juliane Kaminski of the UK University of Portsmouth. Diana Reiss of Hunter College, CUNY wraps up the talk on other species with Reflections of Dolphin and Elephant Minds.

25936The symposium concludes by taking a closer look into our brains with, What Makes Humans Different?, Brain Imaging Studies, and Mirror Neurons and More. Elizabeth Spelke, professor of psychology at Harvard University argues that human’s combinatorial minds make us different from other species. Followed by fellow Harvard professor, Jason Mitchell, and his research on Brain Imaging Studies. Michael Arbib of the University of Southern California ends the day on the notion that Mirror Neurons and More give us the ability to “put oneself in the other’s shoes.”

Airing on UCTV April 2014; CARTA will host Birth to Grandmotherhood: Childrearing in Human Evolution at UC San Diego.

Head to for a full list of CARTA programs.

Join the conversation @UCTelevision, @salkinstitute, #CARTA