Archive for November, 2012|Monthly archive page

Why more than one Theory of Mind? ToM as relational process.

In Di Paolo, Philosophy of Cognitive Sciences, Philosophy of Mind on November 28, 2012 at 6:20 PM

Defining theory of mind (ToM) is not an easy task (Hutto et al., 2011). In their attempt to analyze this concept, Butterfill &Apperly (2011) have constructed minimal ToM, a cognitive ability in which a subject can understand that another individual has a mental-state without attributing him/her this mental-state. Minimal ToM is a cognition (not just an ability), but cannot be identified with full-blown ToM, a proper propositional attribution to, and comprehension of what is going on in another individual’s “mind”. Minimal and full, considered not as two developmental succeeding stages, become alternative routes, exploited either by infants and some animals (minimal), or by adults (full).  Question is: why two? The same “route”, actually, might be used differently, depending on age and contexts. The difficulty crops up considering ToM as a final “something”, entirely acquired at a certain age: that allows to think imperfect stages or disparate routes. My opinion is to look at ToM otherwise, as a relational process, dependent on learning context, physical environment and social/cultural transmission of information. Minimal ToM becomes an essential cognitive “toolbox”, inherited phylogenetically. Differences between infants and adults appear because individuals, tracking their environment and learning from this, partially overwrite the “toolbox” with new, sensitive capacities. 


  Apperly, I.A. (2012) What is “theory of mind”? Concepts, cognitive processes and individual differences. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 65, 5: 825-839.

 Butterfill S.A. & Apperly I.A. (2011) How to construct a minimal theory of mind. Mind and Language.

Hutto, D.D., Herschback, M., Southgate, V. (2011) Editorial: Social Cognition: Mindreading and Alternatives. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 2: 375-395. 


Laura Desirée Di Paolo 


Shaping language faculty.

In Anthropology, Di Vincenzo, Philosophy of Cognitive Sciences on November 26, 2012 at 10:04 PM

Fabio di Vincenzo

Language and social learning appear to be closely related biological phenomena. The cortical areas of the left hemisphere that lies around the fissure of Sylvius are related to the phenomenon of social learning both in man and apes. This cortical areas are the same devoted to the faculty of language in modern humans. Furthermore social learning exhibit a functional coupling of both semantic and syntactic aspects that pre-date the origin of language itself. The extensive and fast-growing of the left perisylvian cortical areas since early Homo more than 2 milions years ago, can be properly linked to the individual advantage to possess a much more efficient and accurate non-verbal system for an early learning by imitation of the know-how and technical skills to have access to food resources, including nutrients essential to support the development of the brain not otherwise available. From a Darwinian point of view, the increased capabilities of social learning in Plio-Pleistocene hominins provides the key adaptations for the further evolution of language.



Di Vincenzo,F. (2011). Toward a neuro-archaeology of the faculty of language. Atti del IV convegno 2010 del CODISCO, 255-266

Di Vincenzo, F.& Manzi, G. (2012). MicroMega. Almanacco della Scienza 1, 2012, 147-167