H. Clark Barrett
Department of Anthropology
University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA

Danger and intention in human cognitive evolution.

Two problems that animals face are figuring out which things in the environment are dangerous, and figuring out others' intentions. These problems overlap in the case of inferring hostile intent in dangerous living things. However, neither danger nor intention are overtly perceivable in the same way as color, shape, or distance. They must be inferred using a combination of perceptual cues and contextual information. In this talk I present a series of studies examining the cognitive machinery that humans use to make such inferences. Some parts of this machinery are probably phylogenetically old, and other parts more recently derived. I discuss the implications of these studies for the design of human cognitive architecture, including conceptual development and mind reading.