And how would we know if they do? In MindreadingAnimals , Robert Lurz offers a fresh approach to the hotly debated question of mental-stateattribution in nonhuman animals. Some empirical researchers and philosophers claim that some animalsare capable of anticipating other creatures' behaviors by interpreting observable cues as signs ofunderlying mental states; others claim that animals are merely clever behavior-readers, capable ofusing such cues to anticipate others' behaviors without interpreting them as evidence of underlyingmental states.
Lurz argues that neither position is compelling, and proposes a way to move thedebate, and the field, forward. Lurz presents a new approach to understanding whatmindreading in animals might be, offering a bottom-up model of mental-state attribution that isbuilt upon cognitive abilities that animals are known to possess rather than on a preconceived viewof the mind applicable to mindreading abilities in humans.
Tokyo, Japan: Keio University Press. The comparative delusion: Beyond behavioristic and mentalistic explanations for nonhuman social cognition.
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Metcalfe Eds. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 31 2 , Povinelli, Daniel J. Inferences about guessing and knowing by chimpanzees Pan troglodytes. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 3 : Povinelli, Derek. Nudds Eds. Premack, David, and Guy Woodruff Sani, Fabio and John Todman. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. Shettleworth, Sara J Clever animals and killjoy explanations in comparative psychology. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 14 11 : Sober, Elliott The principle of conservatism in cognitive ethology.
Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement, Staley, Kent Error-statistical elimination of alternative hypotheses. Synthese, Tomasello, Michael, and Josep Call. Susan Hurley and Matthew Nudds, — Worrall, John Fresnel, Poisson and the white spot: The role of successful predictions in the acceptance of scientific theories. The uses of experiment: Studies in the natural sciences. However, I will undertake a more qualitative analysis here. A formal analysis is not always possible with high-level hypotheses and the particular statistical methods used to evaluate experimental hypotheses in psychology often vary from experiment to experiment.
Given this, a general, qualitative analysis is more appropriate and, as we will see, adequate for evaluating the claims being considered here. I will set this worry aside here, but it is a legitimate one—thanks to Lucy Cheke for flagging it. The question of whether some nonhuman animals understand that others have a mental life of their own what is known as mindreading or theory of mind has received a great deal of theoretical attention in recent decades in comparative psychology and philosophy.
And, yet, the answer seems farther now than ever, with some scientists and philosophers now worrying that the question may be empirically intractable. Halina disagrees with this pessimistic conclusion, calling its proponents methodological sceptics and arguing that the scepticism rests on a misunderstanding of the relationship between experiment and evidence.
The trouble with this approach, Halina argues, is that such reinterpretations are merely empirically adequate — they only fit the data — but fit with data is not enough to produce genuine underdetermination of a theory by the evidence. She is right: underdetermination cannot be produced by just any hypothesis — it must have some degree of plausibility, or else hypotheses that rely on telepathy or alien abductions could undermine well- tested, naturalistic hypotheses, which would surely be absurd.
In the case of mindreading experiments, the alternatives fail the severity analysis — in part because the tests were not designed to test them. Halina concludes that these alternatives could only undermine the evidentiary status of the mindreading hypotheses if they had independent empirical support, which they currently lack. First, few sceptics are guilty, as she claims, of assuming an overly simplified view of underdetermination on which the mere presence of competing hypotheses undermines the evidentiary strength of the hypothesis being proposed.
As I have written elsewhere Meketa , this locution of not needing to posit X when Y can explain the phenomena suggests that the burden of proof is on X. If Heyes is comfortable making burden of proof claims, charity requires that we seek out her reasons and address these directly.
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Povinelli and colleagues, who argue that mindreading does no explanatory work over and above that of behaviour-reading, similarly hold mindreading to bear the burden of proof. Thus, the sceptics are not simply offering empirically adequate alternatives as a strategy for unseating the mindreading hypothesis. Rather, they take their hypotheses as the theoretical defaults that any mindreading experiment must dislodge. If they are right, then the sceptics do not need to show that their hypotheses can pass with severity since their hypotheses already and independently enjoy the status of epistemic superiority.
Indeed, Halina notes that sceptics often appeal to such things as the virtue of simplicity when arguing for the superiority of their alternatives Halina , 2. This captures the dialectic, but not the underlying strategy of the sceptics and so she cannot, as she does, simply set the question of the plausibility of such appeals aside.
Given this, what work is left for the severity analysis to do? To give a complete picture, it may be helpful to include a discussion of other means by which these high-level hypotheses are corroborated — namely, through their conformity with established theories in related domains, such as evolutionary biology.
Such a discussion would offer the resources to explain when and under what conditions certain types of high-level hypothesis rightly attain the status of the default hypothesis. This is because theoretical justifications such as appeals to simplicity do not ground specific high-level hypotheses such as behaviour-reading, but restructure research programs by, e. Insofar as Halina examines the statistical basis for inference from experiment in comparative psychology, argues that the traditional default hypotheses are not supported by the evidence, and concludes that more empirical support is necessary for the sceptical project to go through, her project is consonant with and enriches those of other philosophers who find flaws with the methodology of the sceptical project e.
Her novel contribution lies in bringing the severe testing requirement to bear on hypothesis choice in the mindreading debate. This insight is important and may be profitably extended to other areas of experimental comparative psychology. Andrews, Kristin and Brian Huss. Fitzpatrick, Simon. Lurz, — New York: C. Halina, Marta. In preparation. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 18 3.
Prasanta S. Bandyopadhyay and Malcolm R. Forster, Philadelphia: Elsevier Inc. Meketa, Irina. Philosophy of Science. Sober, Elliot. Robert W. Lurz, A defining question in animal social cognition research is how do animals make such predictions? There are two very general and opposing hypotheses in the field that attempt to answer this question. According to the behavior-reading hypothesis, all animals that are capable of predicting the behavior of others do so by means of perceptual and cognitive processes that range over non-mentalistic representations of behavioral and environmental cues and relations.
What makes these representations of such behavioral and environmental cues and relations non-mentalistic is that the animal can represent them as such without having any understanding of the mental states that may be causing or associated with them in other agents or themselves. In contrast, the mindreading hypothesis holds that some species of animal e. These mental states can include perceptual states such as seeing and hearing; affective and motivational states such as fearing, desiring, intending, and willing; and cognitive states such as knowing, believing, and inferring. A mindreading animal, for example, might predict aggressive behavior from a conspecific because it understands that the threat display of the conspecific means that the conspecific feels threatened and is likely to attack.
An animal that makes the same prediction of aggressive behavior but without understanding the threat display as meaning something about how the conspecific feels is a behavior-reader. So what are skeptics, such as myself, to say? There are other credible views of evidence in which severe tests are not required for data to count as evidence for a hypothesis e.
Skeptics are in their right to ask for some compelling reason to accept the error-statistical view over other equally credible views of evidence that do not require severe tests. So it is unfair to ask for it here. For the sake of argument, then, I will accept the error-statistical account of evidence as correct. I cannot, of course, look at all of these tests; instead, I would like to look at one test in particular that I think is highly representative of the rest.
Perhaps the best-known and most influential mindreading test that has yielded data consistent with the animal mindreading hypothesis is Hare, Call, Agnetta, and Tomasello In Hare et al. Hare and colleagues found that subordinate chimpanzees were more likely to obtain the food behind the opaque barrier than the food out in the open, and they were more likely to make their first move toward the food behind the opaque barrier than the food out in the open. Hare and colleagues interpret these results as evidence that chimpanzees understand the behavioral significance of seeing in conspecifics — that during their ontogeny subordinate chimpanzees learn that dominant conspecifics are more likely to go for food that they see than food they do not see.
Other researchers, myself included, have pointed out that the findings from Hare et al. Although Halina does not speak directly about Hare et al. The problem, simply stated, is that the condition under which a is correct is the very condition under which b is incorrect. One way the hypothesis could be false is if the line-of-gaze hypothesis were true. But if the seeing hypothesis were false because the line-of-gaze hypothesis were true, then subordinate chimpanzees would behave in exactly the way the line-of-gaze hypothesis predicts — that is, they would prefer to take the food behind the opaque barrier to which the dominant lacks a line of gaze.
And this is also exactly what the seeing hypothesis predicts the subordinates would do on Hare et al. Hence, if the seeing hypothesis were false because the line-of-gaze hypothesis were true, then the subordinate chimpanzees would not have behaved in ways inconsistent with what the seeing hypothesis predicts. Thus, a is incorrect if the seeing hypothesis is false as a result of the line-of-gaze hypothesis being true.
The other way that the seeing hypothesis could be false is if the line-of-gaze hypothesis were also false. If the seeing hypothesis were false in this way, then the subordinate chimpanzees may well behave in ways inconsistent with what the seeing hypothesis predicts. For example, the subordinate chimpanzees may have ended up showing no significant preference for the food behind the occluder, or showing a significant preference for the food out in the open.
But either of these results would also be inconsistent with what the line-of-gaze hypothesis predicts. Hence, had the line-of-gaze hypothesis been false under this sort of condition i. Either way, there does not seem to be a condition in which the seeing hypothesis is false and a and b are both correct. Thus, either Hare et al.
I believe that all the other mindreading tests that have yielded data consistent with the animal mindreading hypothesis succumb to the same sort of problem. In other writings, I have tried to show that in these other mindreading tests there is an antecedently plausible behavior-reading hypothesis such as the line-of-gaze hypothesis that is also consistent with the data. What are needed are more sensitive tests in which the mindreading hypothesis and the antecedently plausible behavior-reading hypothesis make different predictions about how the animals will perform on the test.
Such tests are difficult to design, which perhaps explains why they have not yet been run. In the end, I remain skeptical about whether the data from Hare et al. Barth, J. Animal Cognition, 8, Call, J. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12, — Hall, K. American Journal of Primatology, 76, Hare, B. Chimpanzees know what con- specifics do and do not see. Animal Behavior, 59, — Heyes, C. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 9, Lurz, R. If chimpanzees are mindreaders, could behavioral science tell?
Toward a solution of the logical problem. Philosophical Psychology, 22, Mindreading animals: The debate over what animals know about other minds. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 2, — Animal mindreading: A defense of optimistic agnosticism. Mayo, D. Okamoto-Barth, S. Psychological Science, 18, Penn, D. Perner, J. Who took the cog out of cognitive science? Mentalism in an era of anti-cognitivism. Frensch and R. Schwarzer eds , International Congress of Psychology: Proceedings. Hove: Psychology Press, — Povinelli, D. Chimpanzee minds: suspiciously human?
Trends in Cognitive Science, 7, Whiten, A. Humans are not alone in computing how others see the world. Animal Behaviour, 86, So it is antecedently plausible to suppose subordinate chimpanzees use line of gaze in Hare et al. Seeing an object involves more than simply having a line of gaze to it. This is evident from the fact that we do not see everything that is in our line of gaze e. However, I am afraid I do not understand this. The line-of-gaze hypothesis predicts a certain behavior pattern from the subordinate chimpanzees, just as the seeing hypothesis does.
In fact, they both predict the same behavior pattern from the subordinate chimpanzees. If the subordinate chimpanzees do not behave in the way predicted, if they show no significant preference for the food behind the opaque barrier or show a significant preference for the food out in the open, then those negative results would count as much against the seeing hypothesis as the line-of-gaze hypothesis.
P4 is also worth noting, not because it is false, but because the mindreading hypothesis is also compatible with both passing and failing certain mindreading tests. Failures to elicit mindreading behavior may be due to motivation of the subject s , ecological validity, perceptual capacities, complexity of the test, biases, etc.. When pilot testing, these independent variables are often manipulated in order to elicit the desired behavior. But, importantly, one has to fail the right sort of tasks, in the right sort of way.
Careful attention to the patterns of failures and successes have helped us understand the shape of the hidden mechanisms at work in cognitive systems when it comes to numerocity and analogue magnitudes in children and animals, for example see Gallistel , Carey , Beck , and the same strategy is at play in investigating the shape of the mechanisms involved in social prediction Apperly and Butterfill , Butterfill and Apperly , Brown and Taylor, in prep. To present this worry I need to go into some detail about the nature of a severe test, and the close relationship between the hypotheses under discussion.
Note that as stated a severe test is one that serves as a negative test, not a positive test or decision procedure. A severe test is one that will give true negatives, but could also give false positives. Note too that Mayo describes a severe test as one that is relative to a particular hypothesis A positive result would not constitute passing a severe test in this case. Analogously, in the mindreading case, if we have a diagnostic test of the existence of a particular mechanism that has a high rate of false positives and a low rate of false negatives, getting a negative would serve as a severe test of—and good evidence for—the hypothesis that the individual lacks that mechanism.
Tests are severe or not with regard to a particular hypothesis, e. Hb : the mechanism is behavior reading without mindreading. Hm : the mechanism is behavior reading plus mindreading. We need to formulate the hypotheses in this way given that a mindreader must also be a behavior reader—a mindreader knows what flavor of mental states go along with, or cause, the behaviors that are exhibited by a target, and in virtue of that they are able to categorize behaviors as certain types, and as associated with various other behaviors.
Halina argues that for there to be evidence in favor of Hb, we need a severe test of Hb, because the mindreading tests designed to test Hm are severe tests for that hypothesis, but not for Hb. A severe test for the hypothesis Hb would be one that could detect when that hypothesis is false when it is false. In what ways could this hypothesis be false? It could be false if there is both behavior-reading and mindreading as the Hm would have it.
It could be false if there is no behavior reading going on at all which is also going to make Hm false given that mindreading requires behavior reading; and I have to say I cannot imagine what such a test could possibly look like. Those who argue that there are viable alternative hypotheses would claim that mindreading tests do have a high rate of false positives.
The design of the kind of severe tests necessary to decide between the hypotheses requires the very knowledge that we currently lack. Complete internal validity would guarantee that no variable other than the hypothesized one would be implicated in causing the dependent variable. In the case of the debate between Hb and Hm, the perceptual information could be causally implicated in causing the dependent variable in two different ways.
Despite our best efforts, no mindreading experiment has been conceived that succeeds in controlling for the variables that causally relate to the Hb hypothesis Andrews This is because we cannot control for such a variable on nonverbal tasks, given that a mindreader must read behavior, and the same perceptual information is the relevant variable for the dependent variable when investigating both Hm and Hb.
Internal validity is arguably a stronger criterion than a severe test, for it takes into account all the possible causal relations between the independent variables in the experimental context. Apperly, I. Do humans have two systems to track beliefs and belief-like states? Andrews, K. Review of Lurz Mindreading Animals. Notre Dame Philosophical Review. March 30, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
Butterfill, S. How to Construct a Minimal Theory of Mind. Severe tests, arguing from error, and methodological underdetermination. Philosophical Studies — A few thoughts from an empiricist… If interpreting results based on behavioral tests does not allow us to determine which hypothesis is supported e.
For that matter, how do we know that humans actually mindread rather than just behave like we do based on previous learned associations e. Is there actual evidence? We tend to assume that we know certain things about humans, but I think they are often just assumptions. Firstly, it is logically impossible for a nonverbal to read anything, let alone a mind.
Reading is a verbal skill and as such it is by definition beyond the capacity of all nonverbals. It may be objected that I am being a stickler for precision here. Perhaps so. But when was it ever wise for researchers to be imprecise with their tools? What does it mean to interpret something?
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To interpret an object is to ascribe a use or meaning to it. Without interpretation, a stone is just a bundle of properties. But the uses we tool-users can apply to to a stone transform it into any number of different tools. This capacity to attribute a use to an object is such a sophisticated skill that we only see it in the very most intelligent creatures. Attributing a use to an object is one thing but attributing meaning to an object is necessarily a far more sophisticated skill.
And if nonverbals are capable of attributing psychological states to other agents of predication in fact then they should already be capable of attributing meaning to objects. In short, they should be capable of language. Hi Jim, Thanks for joining the suggestion. I would suggest here that everybody gets a free pass on their preferred terminology, because none of the alternatives are really ideal. Given that there are already these two fairly established options in the literature, a new proposed replacement is unlikely to gain much traction.
At any rate, everyone who works in this area has gone through their dark night of the soul with the available terminology and has chosen what they take to be the lesser evil. The important thing is that everyone sufficiently explicates the terms they choose to use so that others know what they mean. Thanks Cameron, My point about terminology was the first of two observations. My hope was that it would be seen as the lesser of the two. The main point I was seeking to raise concerned the skill of attribution. Language users are very adept at the attribution of abstract concepts to objects and agents, but the question of whether nonverbals possess any competence in such skills has — I would suggest — to be viewed in the context of the more rudimentary skills — not to mention the practices — upon which psychological predication must necessarily rely.
First, thanks again to my commentators for their excellent feedback! They raise many important points. I will begin here by responding to three general ones. First, I frame my critique of behaviour reading in terms of severe tests. Andrews and Lurz rightly point out that this approach is limited in that it relies on a particular account of evidence the error-statistical approach.
This is indeed how I present it in the paper, but I agree that it would be better to frame it more generally. My claim is that when an experiment is unable to do this with respect to a given hypothesis H, then the positive results produced by that experiment are not good evidence for H.
If readers will grant me this, then that is all I need in order to set up the main criticism presented in the paper. Concerning that criticism, it holds that mindreading MR experiments are designed to maximize the chances of producing a negative result when the MR hypothesis is false. This is done in various ways: making surprising, specific, previously untested predictions and then testing them, controlling for extraneous variables that might produce the predicted effect, etc. I agree with Andrews and Lurz that no experiment is infallible.
One cannot control for all variables and errors are always possible. However, MR researchers engage in practices that attempt to minimize the chances of such errors. Insofar as they do not, they also run into problems. This is in contrast to advocates of behaviour reading BR who do not conduct BR experiments, but rather rely on the results of MR experiments for evidential support.
In the past, BR theorists have taken both the positive and negative results of MR experiments as evidence for their hypothesis. However, doing this means that these experiments have no ability to detect whether BR is false — a negative BR result in this case is simply not an option. Andrews and Lurz, however, argue that this is not the best way to conceive of BR. If I understand correctly, they hold that the content of the BR hypothesis includes all and only the positive results of the MR experiments that have been conducted thus far specifically, rules linking the independent and dependent variables used in those experiments.
However, this seems problematic for at least two reasons. First, if this is the case, does a negative result on a newly conducted visual perspective taking task count against BR? If MR researchers became convinced on the basis of such a negative result that chimpanzees do not have level-1 visual perspective taking abilities, would we also conclude that chimpanzees are not behaviour readers? This seems unlikely. Insofar as it is, I am not convinced that the negative results of an MR experiment would count against the BR hypothesis.
Sceptics might say here that a negative result would not count against the organism having general behaviour-reading abilities, but would count against a particular rule or set of rules such as competitors will behave in x and y ways when they have a direct line of gaze to food. But then the question is how do sceptics decide which set of rules to include in their hypothesis?
If they make this decision on the basis of the positive results of MR experiments e. MR experiments are incapable of producing negative BR results because the BR hypothesis simply consists of all and only the positive results of MR experiments. Andrews and Mikhalevich make the crucial point that the BR hypothesis is treated by sceptics as the default — as a null hypothesis that we accept when we fail to have evidence for mindreading. However there are two problems with this. First, it misconstrues the MR hypothesis.
Instead, mindreading is a cognitive mechanism that involves among other things the ability to categorize disparate behaviours into the same abstract class based on the unobservable cognitive state that they have in common. Second, I disagree that the MR hypothesis bears the burden of proof for rejecting behaviour-reading alternatives.
Neither the MR nor the BR hypotheses are epistemically privileged to begin with, I hold, but must gain acceptance through consideration of their empirical and theoretical virtues. I am not explicit about this in the paper and agree with Mikhalevich that my main argument depends on this claim, so I cannot simply set it aside as I do there. If BR is a legitimate competitor to MR, then it is a positive, causal hypothesis about the cognitive mechanisms operating in an organism and as such requires empirical support and an evaluation of its epistemic virtues relative to that of other hypotheses.
Even if BR were simpler than MR and it is not clear that it is , there is no reason why the possession of that one particular virtue should trump all others.
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The MR hypothesis might be more complex, but it might also be more coherent, more general, more fruitful, etc. There is no a priori reason for valuing these virtues less than simplicity. Apologies for the long response and for not getting to all of the great points made by the commentators!
I hope that we will have a chance to discuss them as the conversation continues. Your point, Jim Hamlyn, is well taken! I agree that mindreading is not the best term for the cognitive capacity under discussion and behaviour reading is not the best contrast and the terms that we use are important, as they help frame the conceptual space. This might give us a better idea of what we are talking about and help us avoid our own folk-psychological trappings. I completely agree and think that this is one of the most promising routes forward and one currently pursued by Josef Perner and colleagues!
Hi everyone. Thanks for the paper Marta, I liked it a lot. And great discussion so far! I have two comments. First, at times it seems worth pulling apart a couple of similar complaints about the BR hypothesis. First, there is the general complaint that BR hypotheses are or often tend to be ad-hoc. This could be a complaint about the hypothesis itself; for instance, it is often said that it simply consists of a list of rules, with no real unified mechanism.
It could also be a complaint about the relationship between the hypotheses and the experiments; for instance, MR hypotheses have actually motivated the construction of the experiments themselves. Marta employs all of these at different points including the reply to commentaries , and it seems worth flagging the difference.
This may be largely a rhetorical comment, but it matters. For instance, the fact that experiments were deigned to test MR hypotheses, but not BR hypotheses, is reason to expect that they are severe tests of MR, but not BR, but it does not mean that they are. The commentaries point to some reasons to think they often are not. The second point is about the degree of abstraction at which MR and BR hypotheses are pitched, and I think it supports the first.
But a similar complaint could be made about MR. This leads me to think that the best route is to look at the general pattern of results, attempt to characterize the capacity, and then decide whether that capacity counts as mindreading or behavior reading. More importantly, it leaves both MR and BR in a similar position with respect to the experimental results: rather than hoping for specific experiments to be the crucial experiment, proponents of each should take the experiments to be one step in characterizing the capacity at least, for the time being.
Thanks for the comments, Mike Dacey! Those are really good points. Concerning the first one, I absolutely agree that establishing whether an experiment is a severe test for a particular hypothesis requires looking carefully at the particulars of the experiment. How was the experiment designed? What role did the hypothesis play in its design? Did the researchers adequately control for known experimental confounds?
Was the right statistical analysis employed? You and Andrews rightly point out that there are things that psychologists could do that would reduce the severity of their experiments. However, generally, rules of good experimental practice police against such moves. Well-trained psychologists are aware of the things that make for bad tests and avoid them. Cherry-picking data, changing the hypothesis during or after the test, running too many statistical analyses, choosing to run a one-tailed test after you have seen the data, these are things that experimental psychologists know should be avoided because they increase the risk of errors, such as false positives.
The point that the BR hypothesis is ad hoc is not a separate one, I think. Ad hoc constructions of hypotheses increase the chances of false positives, especially if the only constraints on the construction of the hypothesis are the experimental results being assimilated. This is why a list of behavioural rules with no independent theoretical plausibility is so problematic. Your point that one must look at hypotheses on a case-by-case basis is an important one. A hypothesis can be constructed in an ad hoc manner, but still do other things that allow us to gather evidence in its favour, such as make a novel prediction, have coherence with other theories, or even explain current data in a coherent manner.
BR runs into problems when it lacks these things. Concerning your final point regarding the MR hypothesis, I have to disagree. The MR hypothesis makes very specific claims about how organisms will behave in particular situations.
This is what has made the experimental approach to testing MR so fruitful. The levelvisual-perspective-taking hypothesis, for example, predicts that subjects will prefer to reach through an opaque box when stealing food from a competitor, use visual gestures towards agents who can see them, but not towards those who cannot, etc.
If these predictions were not borne out, one could not easily revise the MR hypothesis in order to accommodate this. Of course, one could engage in such revisions, but the more one does, and the more far-fetched the revisions seem, the worse for MR. In practice, this has not happened a lot. Some early auxiliary assumptions have been revised e. The general BR hypothesis lacks such predictive power. More specific hypotheses like line-of-gaze might fare better, but it seems to me that BR advocates have not explored this aspect of their view very much.
Instead, the focus has been on designing better mindreading experiments. But all existing MR experiments are simultaneously BR experiments. Hare et al.
Both hypotheses were simultaneously tested and confirmed by the data. Hare and colleagues may not have intended to test the line of gaze hypothesis with their experiment, but their experiment tested it nonetheless. So the positive results of Hare et al. That is why the data provide at best equivocal evidence for the seeing hypothesis. Furthermore, had the subordinate chimps showed no significant preference for the food behind the barrier over the food out in the open, their performance would have disconfirmed both hypotheses.
Thus, Hare et al. Not true. Quite a few BR hypotheses have been tested by MR experiments and shown to be false. For example, in Hare et al. And the peripheral feeding hypothesis, yet another BR hypothesis, was tested and found to be false in Hare et al. But, of course, not all the BR hypotheses that these MR experiments test are shown to be false.
The line of gaze hypothesis, for example, was tested by Hare et al.