Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Bray Theory Workshop
The Evolution of Theory of Mind
Arthur Robson, Professor of Economics, Simon Fraser University
An individual with theory of mind has the ability to conceive of himself, and of others, as having agency, and so to attribute to himself and others mental states such as belief, desire, knowledge, and intent. It is generally accepted in psychology that human beings beyond early infancy possess ToM. Further, it is conventional in game theory to make the crucial assumption, without much apology, that agents have ToM. The present paper considers ToM in greater depth by addressing the question: Why and how might have such an ability evolved? In what types of environments would ToM yield a distinct advantage over alternative, less sophisticated, approaches to strategic interaction? In general terms, the answer we propose is that ToM is an evolutionary adaptation for dealing with strategic environments that have a persistent element of novelty.