Do monkeys have a theory of mind? How to answer the question?

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Since Premack and Woodruf (1978), the study of mindreading abilities in nonhumans, especially primates, has been thoroughly investigated. But attempts to understand the evolution of this aspect of human intelligence have mainly focused on comparisons between apes and human infants, while relatively little is known about the abilities of monkeys. This lack of data on monkeys seems mainly due to the hypothesis of a cognitive “gap” between apes and monkeys. However, in recent years monkeys have been featuring more prominently in the landscape of social cognition research, and some of these systematic studies appear promising. This paper reviews i) current knowledge about monkeys’ socio-cognitive abilities, especially regarding gaze processing, attention and intention reading, and perspective-taking, ii) alternative hypotheses regarding the underlying mechanisms of such complex behaviors, and iii) potential new perspectives and future directions for studying ToM in monkeys.

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