Conceptual and methodological issues in the investigation of primate intersubjectivity

Racine, T. P., Leavens, David, Susswein, N and Wereha, T. J. (2008) Conceptual and methodological issues in the investigation of primate intersubjectivity. In: Morganti, F, Carassa, A and Riva, G (eds.) Enacting Intersubjectivity: A Cognitive and Social Perspective on the Study of Interactions. IOS Press. ISBN 9781586038502

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Abstract

Abstract. Historically, the ability to point and conversely the absence of pointing in other great ape species has been interpreted as evidence of great discontinuity across the primate lines in the ability to share meaning with an interlocutor. However, this conclusion ignored a variety of observations of nonhuman primates pointing in captivity over the past century and was put to rest by careful experimental work conducted in especially the past decade. Now the debate concerns the human ability to declaratively point and the absence of declarative pointing in other great apes and the same discontinuous conclusions are being drawn. In this chapter, we argue that this is a continuation of the same debate that presupposes certain problematic ideas about the nature of meaning and mind. We attempt to show that the mental state of, for example, a pointer is not what makes an act declarative (or imperative) and we examine this mentalistic picture of the mind that guides the work of theorists who claim to be advancing very different explanations of early social cognition. We then turn to a more general methodological critique of existing research in order to show that the lack of valid empirical evidence that can speak to these issues.

Item Type: Book Section
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Depositing User: David Leavens
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 15:46
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2012 13:00
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/14316
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