World without weight: Perspectives on an alien mind

Paperback | January 1, 2012

byDaniel Povinelli

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In every domain of reasoning-from time and space, to mental states and physical illness-humans deploy an exceedingly diverse range of intuitive 'theories' about how the world works. Children from diverse cultures always seem to arrive at a few, common folk theories as they hone theirdeveloping brains against roughly similar interactions with people and objects. The result is an impressive panoply of folk notions that the human species uses to explain, predict, and just plain talk about everything from why the sky is blue, to why we catch a cold when we stand out in the rain.Unquestionably, all of this "higher-order" reasoning rests upon a diverse and complex tool-kit of "lower-order" neural and bodily mechanisms, much of which humans share in common with other species (and which, collectively, are quite clever in their right). But this book asks a different question:Are humans alone in trying to make sense of the world by postulating theoretical entities to explain how the world works? Povinelli and his colleagues approach this highly controversial territory by investigating the seemingly prosaic topic whether chimpanzees wield roughly the same commonsense ideas about weight that human do. When it comes to the physical world, they ask if chimpanzees reinterpret a broadrange of primary experiences-lifting objects, seeing objects fall or collide, observing the differential effort others exert when they move objects-in terms of a common, causal mechanism which, in our everyday parlance, we refer to as 'weight.' The question is not whether chimpanzees have a theoryabout weight that's any better or worse than preschool children or Einstein or modern string theorists. The question is whether chimpanzees have any theories at all. And the answer comes in the form of over 30 never-before-published experiments from a decade-long research project involving sevenadult chimpanzees and one hundred and twenty preschool children. Povinelli's work encourages us to stand back and adopt a different perspective on even our closest living relatives. Rather than seeing chimpanzees as watered-down versions of ourselves, this book challenges us to see our joint encounter for what it is: a meeting of alien minds.

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In every domain of reasoning-from time and space, to mental states and physical illness-humans deploy an exceedingly diverse range of intuitive 'theories' about how the world works. Children from diverse cultures always seem to arrive at a few, common folk theories as they hone theirdeveloping brains against roughly similar interaction...

Daniel Povinelli established a center at the University of Louisiana for the comparative study of human and ape cognitive development which he directed for nearly twenty years. His research has consistently focused on identifying the unique aspects of human cognition. His work has been recognized by a Distinguished Scientific Award for...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:384 pages, 9.69 × 6.73 × 0.68 inPublished:January 1, 2012Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198570961

ISBN - 13:9780198570967

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Table of Contents

An initial word about 'weight'Preface1. Daniel J. Povinelli: Weight as a Matter of Fact2. Daniel J. Povinelli: Dissecting Weight3. Daniel J. Povinelli, Carley Faughn, Nicholas G. Ballew, and James E. Reaux: Weight Lifting4. Angela Finsterwald, James E. Reaux, Jennifer Vonk, and Daniel J. Povinelli: Weight Sorting5. Daniel J. Povinelli, James E. Reaux, Sarah Dunphy-Lelii, and Jennifer Vonk: Weight as Impediment6. Jennifer Vonk, Angela Finsterwald, Will Dorton, James E. Reaux, Carley Faughn, Derek C. Penn, and Daniel J. Povinelli: The Impact of Weight7. Jennifer Vonk, James E. Reaux, and Daniel J. Povinelli: Close Imposters8. Daniel J. Povinelli, Jennifer Vonk, and Conni Castille: Developing f (weight)9. Daniel J. Povinelli and Derek C. Penn: Some Heavy LiftingELOver Dinner10. Daniel J. Povinelli: World Without WeightAfterword: World Without Apes?