11. First communions: Mimetic sharing without theory of mind

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It is widely held that the gradual development of metarepresentational Theory of Mind (ToM) abilities constituted at least <i>one </i>important hominid upgrade. Are such abilities really needed to explain hominid (i) tool-making, (ii) social cohesion, or even (iii) basic interpretative and language formation/learning capabilities? I propose an alternative explanation of what underlies these sophisticated capacities – the Mimetic Ability Hypothesis (MAH). MAH claims that a vastly increased capacity for recreative imagination best explains the kinds of sophisticated intersubjective engagements of which hominids would have been capable – and that these constituted an important basis for the development of complex language. This proposal puts the idea of the evolution of ToM devices under considerable strain.How did humans bridge the tremendous gap between symbolic thought and the nonsymbolic forms of intelligence that still dominate the rest of the animal kingdom? Merlin Donald, <i>Origins of the Modern Mind</i>


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