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Juan Carlos Goméz “Mutual awareness in primate communication”

October 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Goméz, Juan Carlos 2006 [1994]. Mutual awareness in primate communication: A Gricean approach. – Parker, Sue Taylor; Mitchell, Robert W.; Boccia, Maria L. (eds). Self-awareness in animals and humans. Cambridge: Cambridge Univesity Press: 61-80.

When communication is studied in animals, cognitive components tend to be ignored, whereas students of human communication seem to overemphasize them. (61)

The kind of mental process that seems unavoidable in any Gricean account of communication is metarepresentation, or the ability to represent the representation of a thing instead of the thing itself. […] Organisms capable of attributing mental states are said to possess a theory of mind. Metarepresentation is inherently recursive; that is, a representation can refer to another representation that, in turn, refers to another, and so forth. (66)

This Gricean account of communication involves mutual awareness between the speaker and the listener […] Thus, a Gricean account of communication apparently implies a sophisticated combination of self-awareness – the ability to consider one’s own mental states – and other-awareness, or theory of mind (ToM) – the ability to take into account the mental processes of other people. (68)

Indeed, intentional communication seems sometimes to be identified with these metarepresentational capacities. However, we have seen that a metarepresentational view of intentional communication seems to require highly complex cognitive structures. (69)

[…] the Gricean interpretation of intentional communication is right, but […] it does not necessarily require sophisticated metarepresentational abilities, and can be applied to nonhuman primates and prelinguistic human infants. (69)

[…] according to this interpretation, human infants and gorillas would be able to understand other people’s minds using first-order representations of behaviours that directly reflect mental states such as attention. (72)

[…] if the eyes of the child meet the eyes of the adult, it must be because the adult is attending to his eyes, not to his gesture! You can know that someone is attending to you without making eye contact. If someone is looking at your hand or any other part of your body, he or she is attending to youm and in an excellent position to perceive any manual or corporeal gesture you carry out. In eye contact, however, the other person is not just attending to any part of your body: for eye contact to occur it is necessary that you attend to the eyes of the other person – checking his or her attention – and that the other person attends to your eyes too, probably checking your attention. This means that he or she is attending to your attention. (72)

Eye contact implies mutual attention, and this I will call attention contact. Attention contact consists of attending to the attention of a person who, in turn, is attending to your attention. (72)

Attention contact in them is not the result of complex metarepresentational abilities. It is primary, in the sense that it is first established; then, if one has the necessary cognitive tools, one can construct a metarepresentation of it and its implications. (73)

The concept of attention contact also allows us to understand how organisms presumably devoid of metarepresentational abilities, such as human infants and anthropoids, can nevertheless engage in intentional communication. They do not need to understand their partners’ ideas and intentions by means of second- or higher-order representations. (75)

The other’s attention points to your own attention and, as a result, you are led to your own attention as a focus of attention. If we consider the signs of awareness, the structure of attention contact seems to lead to a first version of self-awareness (both as a physical and as an „aware“ or „attending“ entity).  (76)

The hypothesis I am putting forward is that mutual awareness […] first appears as a peceptual and attentional phenomenon with a peculiar, Gricean structure. By its own nature this phenomenon has a number of mental implications that may be computed only after an organism possesses particular cognitive abilities. […] When we analyze the implications of attention contact, it seems that many important later developments are embedded in its structure: self-consciousness, theory of mind, and complex intentional communication, for example. (77)

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