Shakelford, T.K. And V.A.Weekes-Shakelford (Eds.) Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. Springer (2016)
Comparative cognition researchers have long been interested in the nature of nonhuman animal social capacities. One capacity has received prolonged attention: mindreading, or “theory of mind” as it’s also called, is often seen to be the ability to attribute mental states to others in the service of predicting and explaining behavior. This attention is garnered in no small measure from interest into what accounts for the distinctive features of human social cognition and what are the evolutionary origins of those features. This entry surveys: (1) main hypotheses concerning the adaptive value of mindreading, (2) theoretical problems complicating our ability to determine whether nonhuman animals mindread, and finally (3) proposals that mindreading is a plural rather than unitary cognitive system.