Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Animal Cognition - "Theory Of Mind" and "Chimp Chess"

Image source - image by minouz

"Theory of mind" is the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from one's own. << from Wikipedia quoting Premack, D. G. & Woodruff, G. (1978) >>

In the following Yale Daily News article Rachel Wang reports on the department of Cognitive Science’s workshop series, “The Evolution of Social Psychology,” (2008) at Yale University.
Chimps, people think alike
Rachel Wang
Contributing Reporter - Published Monday, November 10, 2008

Our closest genetic living relatives, the chimps, may not be so different from us after all.

Scientists presented research on Sunday at a talk entitled “Primate Theory of the Mind,” suggesting that chimps may posses many of the same higher-order thinking patterns that humans do. Cognitive scientists have long since debated whether primates have the cognitive ability to understand others in terms of their intentions, such as their beliefs and desires — dubbed “the theory of mind.” Studies presented at the talk about false and true belief, “chimp chess” and moral systems — which reveal behavior contingent on a chimp’s ability to realize others’ mental states — represent strong evidence of the theory of mind, the scientists said.

The final in a series of six lectures, the talk brought a close to the department of Cognitive Science’s workshop series, “The Evolution of Social Psychology,” held this past weekend. The lectures featured speakers from diverse fields such as anthropology, neuroscience and philosophy, who probed questions on emotion, morality and decision-making.

Josep Call, a scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, presented a study using the concept of “chimp chess.”

In the study, two monkeys were shown two boxes containing food that hidden from view. One contained “high-quality” or desirable food, while the other contained low-quality food. The chimps took turns guessing the box in which the desired food was contained, he said. The experimenters found that the chimps would base their guesses on their partner’s behavior — showing that they are cognizant of the other chimp’s mental state, Call said.

“Chimps know what others can and cannot see … in the immediate past,” he said.

In another of Calls’ studies, monkeys were found to prefer eye contact when cooperating to obtain food, but avoid it if they were stealing food. This shows an inherent moral system that is similar to, but less sophisticated than, a human’s, Call said.

“Experiments are like drugs,” he said in a lighter moment of the lecture. “If you use the right one, it can be pleasurable. If you use the wrong one, it can give you a headache.”

But unlike humans, chimps cannot mentally represent a false belief.

Drew Marticorena, a graduate student at Duke University, tested the concepts of true belief and false belief using a “hide the lemon” setup.

“Monkeys like citrus,” he said, referring to the assumption that the monkey would search for the fruit.

In half of trials, the participating chimp knew where the lemon was placed, while in the other half, it was uninformed, he said. The lemon was then moved to another location — which the chimp witnessed in half of the trials and did not witness in the other half, creating a “false belief” about the lemon’s true location. An onlooking chimp was not able to predict where the other chimp would “search” in the misinformed condition, showing that they did not understand their competitor had a false belief, Marticorena said.

Amy Jones ’09, a cognitive science major who attended the conference, said she especially enjoyed the talk “Primate Decision-Making and Irrationality.”

“These are the leading experts in cognitive fields, and to bring them together really provides a coherent picture of cognitive science,” she said.

Josep Call originator of term "Chimp Chess"

Although "chimp chess" does not refer to chimpanzees actually playing chess, the research does seem to indicate that higher order thinking processes are occurring in these hominoid primates. The whole research area of "Theory of Mind" in animals is still quite controversial with little consensus about what this actually means for a non-verbal animal. This article (link) published in 2007 from the Cognitive Evolution Group, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, gives a good overview of the evidence and the on-going debate in this area.

Tags: Chess - Chimp - Chimp Chess - Chimpanzee - Cognitive Science - Josep Call - Theory of Mind - Thinking - University of Louisiana at Lafayette
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Science and Chess - Einstein vrs Oppenheimer (Princeton, 1933)

Albert Einstein & J. Robert Oppenheimer:

Albert Einstein had an interest in chess and was also very mindful of the hold it could have on a chess players' life (quote). Einstein was a personal friend of the World Chess Champion Emanuel Lasker, though I am not aware of any recorded games between these two great men. There is, however, a recorded game between Albert Einstein and the theoretical physicist Julius Robert Oppenheimer, "the father of the atomic bomb" (he was scientific director of the Manhattan Project, Los Alamos, New Mexico, during World War II). Professor Oppenheimer in 1946 became director of the Institute for Advanced Study Princeton, New Jersey (eventually taking over Einstein's old job), where he stayed until a year before his death (source).

Einstein – Oppenheimer [Princeton, New Jersey (1933)]
Opening: Ruy Lopez, Morphy Defense. Caro Variation (C70)
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 b5 5.Bb3 Nf6 6.0-0 Nxe4 7.Re1 d5 8.a4 b4 9.d3 Nc5 10.Nxe5 Ne7 11.Qf3 f6 12.Qh5+ g6 13.Nxg6 hxg6 14.Qxh8 Nxb3 15.cxb3 Qd6 16.Bh6 Kd7 17.Bxf8 Bb7 18.Qg7 Re8 19.Nd2 c5 20.Rad1 a5 21.Nc4 dxc4 22.dxc4 Qxd1 23.Rxd1+ Kc8 24.Bxe7 1-0.

Here is a moving video of the first atomic bomb explosion (in Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16th, 1945) and Oppenheimer's famous quote repeated for a television broadcast (1965):
We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita; Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty, and to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, 'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.' I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.

A sympathetic biography of Oppenheimer, published in AmericanHeritage.com - “I AM BECOME DEATH…” The Agony of J. Robert Oppenheimer, is well worth a read.

Tags: 1945 - Albert Einstein - Atomic Bomb - Bhagavad-Gita - Chess - Institute For Advanced Study - J. Robert Oppenheimer - Los Alamos - Manhattan Project - New Jersey - Princeton University
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