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Folk Physics for ApesThe Chimpanzee's theory of how the world works$
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Daniel Povinelli

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780198572190

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198572190.001.0001

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Causality, tool use, and folk physics: a comparative approach

Causality, tool use, and folk physics: a comparative approach

Folk Physics for Apes

Daniel J. Povinelli

Oxford University Press

Chapter 2 showed how the natural, spontaneous social behavior of chimpanzees — no matter how similar it appears to our own — may be attended by very different kinds of psychological states. This chapter sets the stage for asking similar kinds of questions about chimpanzees' natural and spontaneous interactions with physical objects in the context of their use and manufacture of simple tools. It begins with a review of the very limited experimental evidence which bears on the question of how nonhuman primates understand physical causality in the context of their use and manufacture of tools. It shows how this evidence is ambiguous with respect to the question of whether or not species other than our own appeal to unobservable phenomena to assist in explaining or predicting interactions among physical objects. Second, and in contrast, the chapter presents evidence that human children, from a very early age, come to develop a folk physics which directly appeals to precisely these kinds of unobservable phenomena.

Keywords:   folk physics, social behavior, physical causality, unobservable phenomena

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