First communions : mimetic ability versus theory of mind accounts
It is widely held that the gradual development of metarepresentational Theory of Mind (ToM) abilities constituted at least one important hominid upgrade. Are such abilities really needed to explain hominid (i) tool-making, (ii) social cohesion, or even (iii) basic interpretative and language formation/learning capabilities? I propose an alternative explanation of what underlies these sophisticated capacities – the Mimetic Ability Hypothesis (MAH). MAH claims that a vastly increased capacity for recreative imagination best explains the kinds of sophisticated intersubjective engagements of which hominids would have been capable – and that these constituted an important basis for the development of complex language. This proposal puts the idea of the evolution of ToM devices under considerable strain.