If we consider that the field of animal cognition research began with Darwin’s stories about clever animals, we can see that over the 150 years of work done in this field, there has been a slow swing back and forth between two extreme positions. One extreme is the view that other animals are very much like us, that we can use introspection in order to understand why other animals act as they do, and that no huge interpretive leap is required to understand animal minds. On the other extreme we have the view that other animals are utterly different from us, that no matter how similar their behaviors may appear, the mechanisms they use to act and the reasons for their actions are utterly unlike humans behavior; it would be anthropocentric to assume otherwise. In this paper I want to defend a middle ground that involves the use of folk psychology in the science of animal cognition research, in order to investigate both similarities and differences. Further, I will argue that the use of folk psychology need not involve a problematic anthropomorphism. I will show how the animal cognition research benefits by appeal to folk psychology by discussing the study the psychologist Anne Russon and I conducted on orangutan pantomime communication (Russon and Andrews 2010).
Andrews, Kristin, "A Role for Folk Psychology in Animal Cognition Research" (2015). EXP. 66.