Daniel J Povinelli

Daniel J Povinelli
University of Louisiana at Lafayette | ULL · Department of Biology

Ph.D. Yale University

About

161
Publications
45,018
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10,727
Citations
Citations since 2017
16 Research Items
2608 Citations
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20172018201920202021202220230100200300400
20172018201920202021202220230100200300400
Introduction
Skills and Expertise

Publications

Publications (161)
Article
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What is the likelihood that humans will ever determine if other animals engage in higher-order thinking? In examining what has happened in the twenty years since the publication of our book, Folk Physics for Apes, I conclude that comparative psychologists, the academic stalwarts charged with making progress on this front, are stuck in a series of i...
Article
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When chimpanzees (and other animals) use tools to pound, crack open, retrieve, soak up, pry apart, probe into, and/or dig up other objects (just to name a few of the operations of which they are capable), are these actions modulated by higher-order, structural, role-based representations of , , , and so forth? We report a study that was designed to...
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Walker and Gopnik (2017) suggest they have solved a longstanding problem in comparative and developmental psychology: How to provide an unambiguous measure of analogical reasoning in nonverbal subjects. We argue that this test, much like many others that purport to measure analogical reasoning in nonverbal subjects, does not distinguish between the...
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Hoerl and McCormack demonstrate that although animals possess a sophisticated temporal updating system, there is no evidence that they also possess a temporal reasoning system. This important case study is directly related to the broader claim that although animals are manifestly capable of first-order (perceptually-based) relational reasoning, the...
Article
The Crow and the Pitcher, a classic Aesop's fable, has surprisingly (re)captured the interest of comparative cognition scientists in the past decade. These researchers examine whether corvids (e.g., rooks, crows, and jays) can complete a laboratory analog of the fable by training the corvids to drop stones and other similar objects into tubes of wa...
Article
The conversation that follows concerns patterns of thinking. Comparative psychologist Daniel Povinelli, in conversation with folklorist Brandon Barker, argues that certain anthropomorphizing notions have impeded scientists' attempts to answer these questions: How are animals and humans the same? How are animals and humans different? This conversati...
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The classic Aesop’s fable, Crow and the Pitcher, has inspired a major line of research in comparative cognition. Over the past several years, five articles (over 32 experiments) have examined the ability of corvids (e.g., rooks, crows, and jays) to complete lab-based analogs of this fable, by requiring them to drop stones and other objects into tub...
Article
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Most views of agency take acting for reasons (whether explanatory or justifying) to be an important hallmark of the capacity for agency. The problem, however, is that the standard analysis of what it is to act in light of reasons is not sufficiently fine grained to accommodate what we will argue are the myriad types of ways that agents can do so. W...
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Joint attention (JA) is hypothesized to have a close relationship with developing theory of mind (ToM) capabilities. We tested the co-occurrence of ToM and JA in social interactions between adults with no reported history of psychiatric illness or neurodevelopmental disorders. Participants engaged in an experimental task that encouraged nonverbal c...
Article
Many species exploit immediately apparent dimensions of objects during tool use and manufacture and operate over internal perceptual representations of objects (they move and reorient objects in space, have rules of operation to deform or modify objects, etc). Humans, however, actively test for functionally relevant object properties before such op...
Conference Paper
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Background/Question/Methods The predator protection hypothesis posits that less aggressive or smaller species form nesting associations with more aggressive or larger species for nest protection. In Jackson Hole, WY, smaller black-billed magpies (Pica hudsonia) are nesting in association with larger American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos). There are...
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We provide an account of chimpanzee-specific agency within the context of philosophy of action. We do so by showing that chimpanzees are capable of what we call reason-directed action, even though they may be incapable of more full-blown action, which we call reason-considered action. Although chimpanzee agency does not possess all the features of...
Article
Comparative studies of social responsiveness, a core impairment in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), will enhance our understanding of typical and atypical social behavior. We previously reported a quantitative, cross-species (human-chimpanzee) social responsiveness measure, which included the development of the Chimpanzee Social Responsiveness Scale...
Article
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Understanding the underpinnings of social responsiveness and theory of mind (ToM) will enhance our knowledge of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We hypothesize that higher-order relational reasoning (higher-order RR: reasoning necessitating integration of relationships among multiple variables) is necessary but not sufficient for ToM, and that socia...
Conference Paper
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Competition theory predicts that foraging effort will be negatively correlated with competitive pressure, given that competition reduces foraging efficiency more than the potential costs of foraging, such as increased predation risk. We studied the influence of competition on resource extraction willingness between sympatric corvids American crows...
Data
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A challenging issue in the comparative and developmental literature concerns the effort to define and describe the underlying nature of concepts and representations. This volume represents an attempt to define perception, and what it might mean for an organism to have a "theory of perception." Typically, if an organism is able to differentiate betw...
Data
Full-text available
A challenging issue in the comparative and developmental literature concerns the effort to define and describe the underlying nature of concepts and representations. This volume represents an attempt to define perception, and what it might mean for an organism to have a "theory of perception." Typically, if an organism is able to differentiate betw...
Article
Full-text available
TO EXPLORE MECHANISMS UNDERLYING REDUCED FIXATION OF EYES IN AUTISM, CHILDREN WITH AUTISTIC SPECTRUM DISORDERS (ASD) AND TYPICALLY DEVELOPING CHILDREN WERE TESTED IN FIVE VISUAL SEARCH EXPERIMENTS: simple color feature; color-shape conjunction; face in non-face objects; mouth region; and eye region. No group differences were found for reaction time...
Article
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Premise of the study: Gravitropism typically is generated by dense particles that respond to gravity. Experimental stimulation by high-gradient magnetic fields provides a new approach to selectively manipulate the gravisensing system. Methods: The movement of corn, wheat, and potato starch grains in suspension was examined with videomicroscopy d...
Article
We are in vehement agreement with most of Vaesen's key claims. But Vaesen fails to consider or rebut the possibility that there are deep causal dependencies among the various cognitive traits he identifies as uniquely human. We argue that "higher-order relational reasoning" is one such linchpin trait in the evolution of human tool use, social intel...
Article
Thinking and reasoning, long the academic province of philosophy, have emerged over the past century as core topics of empirical investigation and theoretical analysis in the modern fields of cognitive psychology, cognitive science, and cognitive neuroscience. Formerly seen as too complicated and amorphous to be included in early textbooks on the s...
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We argue against theory-of-mind interpretation of recent false-belief experiments with young infants and explore two other interpretations: enactive and behavioral abstraction approaches. We then discuss the differences between these alternatives.
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The ability to adjust one's ongoing actions in the anticipation of forthcoming task demands is considered as strong evidence for the existence of internal action representations. Studies of action selection in tool use reveal that the behaviours that we choose in the present moment differ depending on what we intend to do next. Further, they point...
Article
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This chapter explores the possibility that one of the important ways in which humans differ from other species is that our minds form and reason about concepts that refer to unobservable entities or processes. In short, it explores the possibility that whereas many species form concepts about observable things and use those concepts in flexible and...
Article
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This chapter presents the author's explanation of the rationale behind this book. The central objective of the investigations reported was to address if chimpanzees have access to a representational system akin to f (WEIGHT), or if their most abstract reasoning about weight is limited to establishing and using causal relations between particular pe...
Article
This chapter begins by considering a study in the late 1930s, which examined chimpanzees' ability to discriminate among objects of different weights. It notes that it took more than one thousand trials for the chimps to learn to discriminate reliably the heavy and light boxes. It then asks why this 'simple' task proved so difficult and what kind of...
Article
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In every domain of reasoning - from time and space, to mental states and physical illness - humans deploy an exceedingly diverse range of intuitive 'theories' about how the world works. Children from diverse cultures always seem to arrive at a few, common folk theories as they hone their developing brains against roughly similar interactions with p...
Article
Why is there such an enormous gap between human and nonhuman minds? Humans have been asking themselves this question for millennia. But if anything, the question has only become more enigmatic since Darwin and the genetic revolution. In the present chapter, we review the various answers that have been proposed to this question in recent years-from...
Article
This chapter reports on eight experiments (and two sub-experiments) to determine if chimpanzees form internal representations of the effort required to lift various objects. This internal representation of weight is referred to as a sensory-motor representation of effort-to-lift. These studies are provided to establish an important background for t...
Article
This chapter reports the results of the research conducted with human children living in south Louisiana. Preschool children were tested on many of the same tests administered to chimpanzees, including weight-sorting tests, box pulling problems, direct collision tests, and balance/stability/deformation tests. The results of the studies reveal both...
Article
This chapter attempts to show that claims that chimpanzees (and other animals) reason about the world in human-like ways are unfounded. In particular, it argues that only humans rely upon 'higher order' causal relations such as force, weight, or gravity, and logical inferential processes such as diagnostic causal reasoning when making sense out of...
Article
This chapter describes a series of studies on chimpanzees' understanding of the role that weight plays in collision dynamics. The results offer considerable support for the idea that chimpanzees do not integrate the bodily sensations they experience when lifting objects within a higher-order representational structure akin to f (WEIGHT). More collo...
Chapter
The data presented in Chapter 3 established that the chimpanzee's perceptual system (broadly construed) represents the effort-to-lift objects of varying weight. This chapter reports on studies to determine whether the existence of such robust representations allows chimpanzees to cope with simple sorting judgments about heavy and light objects. The...
Chapter
This chapter reports on a series of studies to examine if chimpanzees could infer the weight of large objects based on observing the effort that others (people and apes, alike) exerted while lifting and moving them. The studies had two broad aims. First, researchers wanted to develop a task which would allow them to compare their chimpanzees' abili...
Chapter
This chapter describes a series of studies that explored how chimpanzees would react to simple mechanical systems (involving highly familiar materials) in which they needed to place an object of nonnegligible weight at rest on one of two support structures - one of which would allow the object to stay at rest, the other of which would not. The resu...
Chapter
This chapter addresses the following question: in our decade-long investigation of weight, did we obtain any evidence that would lead us to believe that our chimpanzees represent f (WEIGHT)? That is, is there any unique reason to think they represent weight as common causal mechanism across a range of contexts? It is argued that not only did they f...
Article
Because we engage with the world and each other through our bodies and bodily movements, being able to represent one's own and others' bodies is fundamental to human perception, cognition and behaviour. This edited book brings together, for the first time, developmental perspectives on the growth of body knowledge in infancy and early childhood and...
Article
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The development of gaze-following (or joint visual attention) allows human infants to orient to the same object or event to which another person is looking. The development of the ability undergoes elaborations between 6 and 18 months, with older infants displaying the ability to (a) track gaze in response to eye movement alone, (b) look into space...
Article
Full-text available
Comparative studies of social responsiveness, an ability that is impaired in autism spectrum disorders, can inform our understanding of both autism and the cognitive architecture of social behavior. Because there is no existing quantitative measure of social responsiveness in chimpanzees, we generated a quantitative, cross-species (human-chimpanzee...
Article
Full-text available
Gaze following is a fundamental component of triadic social interaction which includes events and an object shared with other individuals and is found in both human and nonhuman primates. Most previous work has focused only on the immediate reaction after following another’s gaze. In contrast, this study investigated whether gaze following is retai...
Article
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Subjects were asked to indicate the likelihood that each of 30 animals (chosen as exemplars of the major phylogenetic classes) could engage in three complex cognitive tasks. Subjects were also asked to rate the extent to which they felt each animal was similar to themselves and whether they felt the animal experienced the world in a manner similar...
Chapter
The study of animal intelligence has been addressed by ethologists, biologists, psychologists, anthropologists, neurologists, zoologists, and ecologists, among others, each guided by different theoretical perspectives. Representatives from each field have thus defined intelligence in different ways. The resulting disparate theoretical definitions h...
Article
From an early age, humans know a surprising amount about basic physical principles, such as gravity, force, mass, and shape. We can see this in the way that young children play and manipulate objects around them. The same behavior has long been observed in primates - chimpanzees have been shown to possess a remarkable ability to make and use simple...
Article
In our opinion, the discontinuity between extant human and nonhuman minds is much broader and deeper than most researchers admit. We are happy to report that Evans & Levinson's (E&L's) target article strongly corroborates our unpopular hypothesis, and that the comparative evidence, in turn, bolsters E&L's provocative argument. Both a Universal Gram...
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Considerable attention has been devoted to behaviors in which tools are used to perform actions in extrapersonal space by extending the reach. Evidence suggests that these behaviors result in an expansion of the body schema and peripersonal space. However, humans often use tools to perform tasks within peripersonal space that cannot be accomplished...
Article
We are big fans of propositions. But we are not big fans of the "propositional approach" proposed by Mitchell et al. The authors ignore the critical role played by implicit, non-inferential processes in biological cognition, overestimate the work that propositions alone can do, and gloss over substantial differences in how different kinds of animal...
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Some of the most contentious and intractable debates in comparative psychology result from the fact that researchers persistently overlook—or frankly refuse to acknowledge—the distinct roles played by different levels of explanation in cognitive science. We examine two prominent explananda—"Do animals reason about causal relations?" and "Do animals...
Article
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We conducted experiments on two populations of chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes, to determine whether they would take advantage of opportunities to provide food rewards to familiar group members at little cost to themselves. In both of the experiments described here, chimpanzees were able to deliver identical rewards to themselves and to other members...
Article
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Over the last quarter century, the dominant tendency in comparative cognitive psychology has been to emphasize the similarities between human and nonhuman minds and to downplay the differences as "one of degree and not of kind" (Darwin 1871). In the present target article, we argue that Darwin was mistaken: the profound biological continuity betwee...
Article
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In our target article, we argued that there is a profound functional discontinuity between the cognitive abilities of modern humans and those of all other extant species. Unsurprisingly, our hypothesis elicited a wide range of responses from commentators. After responding to the commentaries, we conclude that our hypothesis lies closer to Darwin's...
Article
Full-text available
We conducted experiments on two populations of chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes, to determine whether they would take advantage of opportunities to provide food rewards to familiar group members at little cost to themselves. In both of the experiments described here, chimpanzees were able to deliver identical rewards to themselves and to other members...
Article
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Glossary emulation A type of social learning characterized by copying a rule pertaining to environ-mental effects (causes), results, or goals using idiosyncratic movements. Emulation is often contrasted with imi-tation, which is typically defined as copying specific actions and their respective goals. episodic memory Memories about one's personal p...
Article
This study examined the hypothesis that toddlers interpret an adult's head turn as evidence that the adult was looking at something, whereas younger infants interpret gaze based on an expectancy that an interesting object will be present on the side to which the adult has turned. Infants of 12 months and toddlers of 24 months were first shown that...
Article
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After decades of effort by some of our brightest human and non-human minds, there is still little consensus on whether or not non-human animals understand anything about the unobservable mental states of other animals or even what it would mean for a non-verbal animal to understand the concept of a 'mental state'. In the present paper, we confront...
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Two experiments examined toddlers' performance on a new task designed to examine the development of body self-awareness. The new task was conceived from observations by Piaget (1953/1977) and theoretical work from Povinelli and Cant (1995) and involved a toy shopping cart to the back of which a small mat had been attached. Children were asked to pu...
Article
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In this article, we review some of the most provocative experimental results to have emerged from comparative labs in the past few years, starting with research focusing on contingency learning and finishing with experiments exploring nonhuman animals' understanding of causal-logical relations. Although the theoretical explanation for these results...
Article
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Beninger and Quinsey argue that we provide no evidence that chimpanzees show other-regarding preferences in the two-option test situation under conditions in which they would be expected to show such a preference. This criticism is misdirected, because our aim was not to determine whether chimpanzees would demonstrate prosocial preference under any...
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Humans are an unusually prosocial species-we vote, give blood, recycle, give tithes and punish violators of social norms. Experimental evidence indicates that people willingly incur costs to help strangers in anonymous one-shot interactions, and that altruistic behaviour is motivated, at least in part, by empathy and concern for the welfare of othe...
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Tomasello et al. argue that the “small difference that made a big difference” in the evolution of the human mind was the disposition to share intentions. Chimpanzees are said to understand certain mental states (like intentions), but not share them. We argue that an alternative model is better supported by the data: the capacity to represent mental...
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This chapter begins with a brief review of the theory of parent-offspring conflict and considers the role of this conflict in the cognitive development of human infants. It then discusses the evolution of theory of mind - which is taken to have its origins in human evolution - and considers how this human cognitive specialization might have interac...
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To assess the influence of different procedures on chimpanzees' performance in object-choice tasks, five adult chimpanzees were tested using three experimenter-given cues to food location: gazing, glancing, and pointing. These cues were delivered to the subjects in an identical fashion but were deployed within the context of two distinct meta-proce...
Article
The question of whether chimpanzees, like humans, reason about unobservable mental states remains highly controversial. On one account, chimpanzees are seen as possessing a psychological system for social cognition that represents and reasons about behaviors alone. A competing account allows that the chimpanzee's social cognition system additionall...
Article
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Chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes, interacted with a familiar human partner across a table that contained a piece of highly desirable food and an undesirable distracter object. We explored how the chimpanzees' deployed their gestures on trials in which the food and object were out of their reach, thus creating a context in which they needed to recruit t...
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This chapter reports the results of an investigation of chimpanzees' ability to solve the trap-tube task that was originally designed by Visalberghi and Limongelli (1994). This task requires the subjects to insert a probe into one end of a tube in order to push out a food reward. In general, the results of these tests favor the hypothesis that chim...
Chapter
This chapter focuses on just one of the causal relations involved in the interaction between the fishing tool and the substrate in and around which it must operate: namely, the size/configuration of the end of the tool and the opening in the termite mound into which it is inserted. The study addressed this issue by asking whether chimpanzees posses...
Chapter
This chapter presents the results of studies on the classic 'support' problem, originally employed by Piaget (1952). Here, the problem involves a goal object (a toy) that is out of the infant's reach, but is resting on a support (a blanket) that is within reach. The question is whether the infant appreciates that the toy can be obtained by pulling...
Chapter
This chapter presents the results of experiments that were undertaken to determine if the chimpanzees' ability to modify tools reflects an underlying appreciation of the causal structure of the problems at hand. The results suggest that although chimpanzees will modify tools if they understand their properties, these actions are only weakly related...
Chapter
This chapter tests Köhler's (1927) claim that the chimpanzee has no explicit notion of physical connection, but merely sees contact to a greater or lesser degree. In order to explore apes' ability to conceive of their solutions in terms of physical connection, researchers examined their reactions to a rope-and-banana problem, a hook retrieval probl...
Chapter
This chapter reports the results of an investigation of chimpanzees' ability to solve the trap-table problem, wherein chimpanzees were required to reason about the interaction between a simple tool (a rake), a goal object (a food reward), and the substrate (the table surface) along which the goal object moved. The trap-table task was designed so th...
Chapter
This chapter addresses some difficult theoretical issues which, up to this point, have been gingerly sidestepped. First, it offers an account of how chimpanzees interpret the interactions between the objects they use as tools and the effects that these objects produce. It illustrates the nature of this understanding by detailing one example of what...
Chapter
This chapter explores whether chimpanzees might exhibit a better a priori understanding of the causal aspects of tool use in a case where they only needed to attend to the interaction between the tool and the goal object, as opposed to simultaneously keeping track of the substrate upon which the tool and goal object were operating. By testing chimp...
Chapter
This chapter begins with a discussion of the purpose of the book, which is to probe chimpanzees' understanding of the physics that allow such acts of tool using and making in the first place - their folk physics of tools. It considers the arguments of the skeptic regarding the necessity of understanding how chimpanzees conceive of the physics that...
Chapter
This chapter reports the results of several studies that examined whether chimpanzees possessed a conceptual understanding of the relation between the rigidity of a tool and its ability to move an object. To this end, apes were confronted with two similar rakes: one of which had a rigid base that could easily drag an apple to within their reach, an...
Chapter
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This chapter exposes the logical weakness in assuming that the similarity in the natural behavior of humans and chimpanzees implies a comparable degree of similarity in the mental states which attend and generate that behavior. In short, it formally challenges the argument by analogy. It shows to how the nature of psychological evolution may virtua...
Chapter
Chapter 2 showed how the natural, spontaneous social behavior of chimpanzees - no matter how similar it appears to our own - may be attended by very different kinds of psychological states. This chapter sets the stage for asking similar kinds of questions about chimpanzees' natural and spontaneous interactions with physical objects in the context o...
Article
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Chimpanzees undoubtedly form concepts related to the statistical regularities in behavior. But do they also construe such abstractions in terms of mental states - that is, do they possess a 'theory of mind'? Although both anecdotal and experimental data have been marshaled to support this idea, we show that no explanatory power or economy of expres...
Article
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In a previous cross-sectional study of mirror self-recognition involving 92 chimpanzees, Povinelli et al. [Journal of Comparative Psychology 107 (1993) 347] reported a peak in the proportion of animals exhibiting self-recognition in the adolescent/young adult sample (8-15 years), with 75% being classified as positive. In contrast, only 26% of the o...