Date of Award

Spring 4-18-2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Sian Evans

Second Advisor

Philip Stoddard

Abstract

Theory of mind has been defined as the ability to attribute mental sates such as perceptions, knowledge, and belief to others. Studies examining theory of mind in primates have been the center of intense controversy. Much of the research on this subject has focused on designing methodologies to test a primate’s ability to discern the perceptions of others. Namely, many studies have examined an individual’s knowledge of what others can and cannot see. However, other sensory modalities have not undergone as much extensive research. This study aimed to replicate the methodology of a previous experiment with the addition of two novel experimental conditions. Individual long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) were allowed to approach one of two identical, lidded, clear boxes which had jingle bells attached to them. One of the boxes had the metal bits removed from inside of the jingle bells attached to it, thus creating one “silent” box and leaving the remaining one “noisy”. The experimenter either looked directly at the subject, down at the ground between their knees, or in the novel conditions, turned their back to the subject, or wore a welder’s mask while facing the subject after demonstrating each box’s auditory properties. It was predicted that subjects would choose to approach the silent container in the latter three conditions. The results indicated that subjects selected boxes at random in all conditions. Additionally, in order to explore the possibility of perspective-taking representing a derived trait in the genus Macaca, a phylogeny of the genus was created and annotated to display the presence of perspective-taking as a phenotypic trait in extant species. Three likely evolutionary scenarios leading to the current distribution of perspective-taking are postulated and analyzed for parsimony through the number of assumed gains and losses. The most parsimonious tree suggests that perspective taking could be a conserved trait among the order, giving credence to the argument that some other variable was responsible the negative results in this experiment. It is suggested that the results of the present study represent an artifact of the social environment of the subject population. Moreover, arguments are made for the development of more naturalistic studies for examining mental state attribution in primates.

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