Since a theory of mind is so crucial to understanding contemporary human behavior, its development is a topic of intense research interest. Similar to the development of language and the ability to walk upright on two feet, a theory of mind is a significant step in the evolution of primates. The case for the significance of language and bipedalism is, if not simpler, at least more familiar. Primate language allowed them to do things like remotely influence the actions of other members of their species, learn about and share knowledge about events they hadn’t personally experienced, and work together. Once primates became bipedal, their forelimbs could be used for more than simply walking: they could also be used for grasping, tossing, and shaping items. As a result of the decreased need for water, new niches were accessible for foraging. At the very least, this justifies the extensive study of the connections between language and bipedalism. But how would you quantify the huge significance of a theory of mind? How did the development of an understanding of mental states affect the course of primate evolution? Is it fair to rank a philosophy of mind alongside language and bipedalism in terms of significance? Will humans evolve away from theory of mind?
Things you need to know about – Theory of Mind
The capacity to ascribe mental states like as beliefs, intentions, wants, emotions, and knowledge to oneself as well as to other people is referred to as theory of mind. Only humans are capable of developing a sophisticated theory of mind. We are able to engage in day-to-day social interaction thanks to our capacity to interpret the mental states of those around us and infer their behaviors when we have a theory of mind. Understanding that other people have unique beliefs and desires that are distinct from our own is made possible when we have a theory of mind. The concept that other people’s views and goals are identical to our own, known as uniformity of mind, is the antithesis of theory of mind. However, despite the fact that almost half a century of study has been conducted on the topic, its evolutionary genesis is still completely unclear.
It is probable that theory of mind emerged from the very beginning of the development of hominins to produce hominins apart from chimpanzees that have no theory of mind since only humans have substantial theory of mind. Chimpanzees do not have theory of mind. As a consequence of this, the literatures that will be discussed in this study are selected on the basis of theory of mind and human evolution, beginning with the hominins that diverged from chimpanzees. The objective of this study is to argue that the beginning of the evolution of hominins resulted in division of labor, which in turn led to the development of theory of mind because of the combination of bipedalism and a mixed environment. The feet of early hominins were still more suited for grabbing trees than for walking for long distances and sprinting quickly on the ground. This was because walking for long distances required more energy than running quickly on the ground. The environment that the first hominins called home was a patchwork of grassy woods, sections of deeper forest, and springs of freshwater. The difficulty of walking in the mixed habitat leads to a division of labor for the home specialist group (small children, the elderly, mothers with small children, and pregnant women) in the safe forest area and the exploration specialist group (young people who do not have the responsibility of caring for small children) in the dangerous open area. In the safe forest area, the home specialist group consists of people like old people, mothers with small children, and pregnant women. Theory of mind may be defined as the capacity to assign distinct mental states to different specialized groups. This ability is produced by the diverse tasks, attitudes, and mentalities that are present in different specialist groups. (Those who are generalists without division of work are more likely to have a uniformity of mind rather than a theory of mind.)
The early Homo species that lived in open habitats were the ones that evolved theory of mind, and they were the ones who were specialists in hunting and gathering. Middle Homo species with sophisticated stone tools generated theory of mind for the cooperative specialist groups in the huge manufacture of complex stone tools. This led to the development of cooperative specialist groups. The late Homo species that engaged in sophisticated social interaction acquired a theory of mind that enabled them to read the minds of others, which improved their ability to cooperate and enabled them to identify dishonest participants in complicated social interaction. For the purpose of religion, the extremely severe conditions of the Upper Paleolithic Period contributed to the development of theory of mind for imaginary experts. These specialists sought divine power, guidance, and consolation in the form of imagined divisions of labor. Therefore, the three broad categories of theory of mind are mind reading in complicated social interaction, mind reading for experts in divisions of work, and imaginary specialists in fictitious divisions of labor under hard conditions. The development of a theory of mind is shown in the picture below.
Upper Paleolithic Period
From about 200,000 to about 40,000 years ago, there is no evidence for widespread religious practice, suggesting that people were essentially irreligious because they saw no need for it. Agustn Fuentes suggests that religion emerged from a need for reassurance and optimism. In human life, it is common practice to accept as true implausible claims for which there is no tangible evidence. Human religion, this argues, is a theory of mind for made-up specialists working in a made-up division of labor, all of which exists in a hypothetically difficult environment. Specialists, both real and imagined, work together to help people through tough times, with the latter representing the supernatural by providing them with supernatural strength, direction, and solace. It first appeared during the Middle to Late Upper Paleolithic era.
Several sudden drops in temperature during the Upper Paleolithic period drastically reduced forest cover in Europe and Asia. The loss of forests has led to a decrease in food production as well as in usable timber and other non-food materials. Fertility and physical health were major concerns for women and men in Upper Paleolithic society. Figures of fe-males and paintings on cave walls attest to a time when people were creative. Miniature sculptures of voluptuous female nudes were the usual subject of the imaginatively exaggerated and distorted female figurines (buttocks, stomach and chest). The sexual accent on the female breasts and the posterior are assumed by many to connote signs of fertility. The head and arms are mostly absent with the stress on the middle of the torso. Exaggerated thighs give way to skinny calves. The head has no face. Accord- ing to Alan F. Dixson and Barnaby J. Dixson, these female figurines symbolized and brought the hope for a well-nourished and fertile community facing grim winters and a scarce food supply . In the imaginative cave paints, the animals were mystic large strong animals or mystic animals with horns that symbolized maturation and strength. David Lewis-Williams suggests that hallucinatory or trance states induced by drugs or repetitive rhyme were responsible for the imaginative cave paintings. The mystic animal pictures were conceived during the trance states. The mystic powerful animal cave paintings were presented as evidence of spirit journeys previously undertaken. These cave paintings symbolized and brought the hope for a vital and powerful community facing grim winters and a scarce food supply.
The female figurines and the cave painting symbolized the supernatural in terms of fertility for women and vitality for men, respectively. (These religious symbols evolved into fertility goddesses and warrior gods in the civilized society later.) The concept of the supernatural at the time of the Upper Paleolithic Pe-riod was considerably different from the current concept of the supernatural. At the time of the Upper Paleolithic Period, the supernatural was immanent super- natural that appeared everywhere as a part of all objects in the world. (The tran- scendental supernatural was developed later). Anything unexplained or unusual was attributed to the supernatural. Everyone and everything had an equal chance of becoming an avatar, the physical manifestation of a deity or other supernatural being. Symbols for the unseen supernatural often exaggerated and distorted representations of everyday natural objects to represent the supernatural’s mysterious and out-of-the-ordinary qualities. (A symbol is an extreme version of a real-world attribute.) These signs helped people connect with a supernatural aid that was close at hand.
During the Upper Paleolithic, religious symbols for an imminent supernatural began to be widely exchanged between different social groups. Widespread presence of these female figurines suggests they played a significant role in intergroup relations and were part of a ritualistic ex-change system. Alternate states of consciousness were also practiced as communal rituals by various social groups, often under the guidance of shaman in or out of caves. Collectively cultivating the alternative state of mind acted as a unifying force for people of different backgrounds. The spread of religious icons resulted in the integration of disparate communities through the exchange of vital survival knowledge and materials. The groups’ increased vitality and fertility as a result of the sharing is further proof of the efficacy of the religious symbols. Female figurines and cave painting religion flourished as a result. The Upper Paleolithic Revolution was characterized by a flourishing of religious art and the associated skills as people devoted more time and effort to creating such symbols for the immediate supernatural.
The Upper Paleolithic Revo- lution occurred during the Upper Paleolithic period and, like the Industrial and Neolithic Revolutions, it was a relatively short period of time during which many significant inventions appeared and cultural shifts occurred. There were new forms of worship, tools, hunting methods, methods for disposing of the dead, and creative endeavors all resulting from the upheaval. As a result of the hardships people were forced to work together more than ever, especially across social groups. Belief in the supernatural on the part of religious groups quickly became widespread across all human societies. Religious belief in the supernatural is a universal feature of human societies. The extinction of the Neanderthals coincided with the decline of their religion.
A PET study found that the inferior frontal region, which is responsible for maintaining representations of actions and goals, was activated in theory of mind. The medial prefrontal node, which deals with one’s own mental state, was also activated. Individuals with greater theory of mind activity were found to be more religious, as determined by Kapogiannis and Deshpande’s functional MRI study of the brains of both self-declared religious and non-religious individuals. Brain regions involved in theory of mind become active when we contemplate the existence of God. Autistic people who struggle with imagination and pretend play cannot understand the perspectives of others.
It’s an interesting question whether humans will evolve away from theory of mind. After all, theory of mind is what allows us to understand the inner mental states of others, including their intentions, desires, and beliefs. This ability is unique to humans among all the animals and is thought to be essential for our successful social interactions. However, some scientists have suggested that theory of mind may not be as essential as we think. They point to studies showing that some animals, such as chimpanzees, seem to have a basic understanding of others’ inner states. This understanding may not be as sophisticated as ours, but it may be enough for them to get by in their social interactions. So, will humans evolve away from theory of mind? It’s hard to say for sure. However, it is interesting to consider the possibility that we may not always need this ability in the future.
The development of a theory of mind, which has only ever been observed in humans, may be traced back to the beginning of human evolution, when bipedalism and a mixed environment were necessary for the formation of hominins. The earliest humans still had feet that were more suited for grabbing trees than walking great distances or running quickly on the ground because their feet were still evolved for climbing. The environment that the first hominins called home was a patchwork of grassy woods, sections of deeper forest, and springs of freshwater. The difficulty of walking in the mixed habitat leads to a division of labor for the home specialist group (small children, old people, mothers with small children, and pregnant women) in the safe forest area and the exploration specialist group (young people who do not have the care of small children) in the dangerous open area. In the safe forest area, the home specialist group consists of pregnant women, mothers with small children, and mothers with small children. In the open area, the exploration specialist group consists of young people Theory of mind may be defined as the ability to assign various mental states to different specialized groups. This ability is produced by the distinct tasks, attitudes, and mentalities that are associated with each specialist group.
The question that arises from this is – will humans evolve away from theory of mind?
There are many hypotheses that may be true, but only the wheel of time can answer that question.