The evolution and development of visual perspective taking

Mind and Language 34 (2):183-204 (2019)
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Abstract

I outline three conceptions of seeing that a creature might possess: ‘the headlamp conception,’ which involves an understanding of the causal connections between gazing at an object, certain mental states, and behavior; ‘the stage lights conception,’ which involves an understanding of the selective nature of visual attention; and seeing-as. I argue that infants and various nonhumans possess the headlamp conception. There is also evidence that chimpanzees and 3-year-old children have some grasp of seeing-as. However, due to a dearth of studies, there is no evidence that infants or nonhumans possess the stage lights conception of seeing. I outline the kinds of experiments that are needed, and what we stand to learn about the evolution and development of perspective taking.

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Ben Phillips
Arizona State University

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