Did theory of mind start here, or somewhere like it?

Haroush and Williams derive some interesting conclusions from getting monkeys to play iterated prisoner’s dilemma. They explore how monkey I’s decision to cooperate or defect is influenced by its view as to monkey II’s likely decision. They find that monkey I explicitly forms a view as to monkey II’s likely decision. In other words, monkey I predicts monkey II’s choice. This prediction is effected by dedicated neurons in monkey I’s dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, which encode monkey II’s likely decision. The success of monkey I’s predictions greatly exceeds what would be achieved by chance. These dedicated neurons are also dispassionate. Thus, they focus on factors such as past performance by monkey II, and not on monkey I’s expected reward.

The question then arises, is this evidence that monkeys have theory of mind? Alternatively, is this just another example of the brain’s extraordinary ability to recognise patterns?

Link to paper: http://www.cell.com/cell/pdfExtended/S0092-8674(15)00123-3

You may also like to browse other ethology posts: http://www.thesentientrobot.com/category/ethology/