Theory of Mind

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Within this TMA I will be discussing Theory of Mind and how it may have evolved in humans, using the Theory of Evolution to explain this. I will also be looking at what the adaptive function of Theory of Mind in humans may be. The adaptive function in this essay means the relative ability of a person to effectively interact with society on all levels and care for one’s self; affected by one’s eagerness to practice skills and follow opportunities for enhancement.

Evolution is the procedure which modern organisms have descended from the earliest ancestors. Evolution is accountable for both the similarities and the diversity across all species. Essential to the process is genetic variation on which selective forces can act in order for evolution to occur. Evolution can also be described as descent with modification. Evolution occurs when there is a modification in gene regularity in a population over time. These genetic differences can be inherited and may be passed on to the subsequent generations. The main idea of evolution is all life on earth shares a common ancestor. Charles Darwin first proposed the theory of evolution after spending time on the Galapagos Islands. He developed the theory of evolution which would oppose the creation of man and imply that all species derived from common ancestors through natural selection. Natural selection is thought to be the main factor resulting in the diversity of species. Natural Selection is as stated by Barrett (2002) “The process whereby physical and behavioral characteristics which enable survival are passed onto descendants” (as cited in Clegg. 2007. Pg121). The disappearance of less suited gene traits and the survival of the better suited genetic traits led Darwin to reason that organisms had evolved over time, where the most advantageous characteristics of species’ are preferred and those organisms who demonstrate them survive to pass on their genes. Darwin believed that organisms had evolved to adapt to their environments. This allowed them to fill a niche in which they would be well suited to their environment and in turn increase survival chances. Darwin's finches are an example of the way the species' genetic traits have adapted for long term survival via their young. The beaks of the finches Darwin discovered have evolved to be best suited to their purpose. For example, the finches that eat grubs have a slim extended beak to poke holes into the earth and retrieve the grubs. Finches that eat fruits and buds would not be successful at this, as their larger beaks grind down food which gives them an advantage in situations where buds are the only food source for finches.

Within humans many adaptations have occurred through Darwin’s idea of natural selection. “An adaptation is an evolved property of an organism, the original function of which adds to its fitness” (Clegg, 2007, p122). One of these adaptations is called Theory of Mind. Theory of Mind is “the ability to explain and predict the actions of both oneself and other” (Clegg, 2007, p133). To have Theory of Mind would allow humans to understand what another person feels and use that information to adjust their own actions Studies have been carried out on primates closely related to humans in the gene pool to try and understand the evolution of Theory of Mind. One observation completed by Whiten in 1997 was that of an ape who distracted another to keep the competitor from food which the original ape had seen (as cited in Clegg, 2007, p139). This ape’s deception may point to the ape possessing some Theory of Mind as it realised that the competitor would have desired the food item also. This can also be related to modern humans as the ability to find food can also be a difficult task for some people such as the tribes who live in the deserts. This will attract a partner as it shows the ability to provide and survive, and will be passed through generations. Archaeological evidence can...
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