Laurie Santos – The Evolution of Mind-Reading: Insights from Non-Human Animals

santos-sm“The Evolution of Mind-Reading: Insights from Non-Human Animals”
Laurie Santos, Yale University

Friday, June 16, 2017, 8 – 9pm
Lillie Auditorium
Lectures are free and open to the public.
Livestreaming at

INTRODUCER: David Mark Welch, Director, Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution, MBL

Lecture Abstract:

How do we come to think about the minds of other people? Over the past decade, researchers have made great strides in studying how people develop what’s known as our “theory of mind.” This recent work has shown that human infants begin to think about others’ minds within the first year of life. But are humans alone in thinking about other minds? In this talk, I will explore what nonhuman primates know about the minds of others. Using studies with monkeys, I’ll argue that nonhuman primates may possess a phylogenetically-old system for tracking other individuals’ perceptions and true (but not false) information. I’ll then discuss what makes our human theory of mind special— the ability to track others’ beliefs— and how this unique ability might contribute to human unique culture and teaching.

Dr. Laurie Santos is a Professor of Psychology at Yale University, where she serves as Director of the Comparative Cognition Laboratory as well as the Canine Cognition Center, a research facility that studies how dogs think about the world. She obtained her A.B. and her Ph.D. in Psychology from Harvard University. Her numerous awards for science, teaching, and mentorship include the Stanton Prize from the Society for Philosophy and Psychology for outstanding contributions to interdisciplinary research. Dr. Santos’ scientific research is widely published, and she and her work have been featured in numerous media outlets, such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, The New Yorker, New Scientist, Smithsonian Magazine, and Discover Magazine, as well as on History Channel, NPR and NOVA. She was named one of Popular Science Magazine’s “Brilliant 10,” and a TIME magazine “Leading Campus Celebrity.” Her TED Talk has well over a million views.