Mindreading Animals

Mindreading Animals

The Debate over What Animals Know about Other Minds

By Robert W. Lurz

A comprehensive examination of a hotly debated question proposes a new model for mindreading in animals and a new experimental approach.

A Bradford Book





A comprehensive examination of a hotly debated question proposes a new model for mindreading in animals and a new experimental approach.

Animals live in a world of other minds, human and nonhuman, and their well-being and survival often depends on what is going on in the minds of these other creatures. But do animals know that other creatures have minds? And how would we know if they do? In Mindreading Animals, Robert Lurz offers a fresh approach to the hotly debated question of mental-state attribution in nonhuman animals. Some empirical researchers and philosophers claim that some animals are capable of anticipating other creatures' behaviors by interpreting observable cues as signs of underlying mental states; others claim that animals are merely clever behavior-readers, capable of using such cues to anticipate others' behaviors without interpreting them as evidence of underlying mental states. Lurz argues that neither position is compelling and proposes a way to move the debate, and the field, forward.

Lurz offers a bottom-up model of mental-state attribution that is built on cognitive abilities that animals are known to possess rather than on a preconceived view of the mind applicable to mindreading abilities in humans. Lurz goes on to describe an innovative series of new experimental protocols for animal mindreading research that show in detail how various types of animals—from apes to monkeys to ravens to dogs—can be tested for perceptual state and belief attribution.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262016056 264 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 38 figures


$25.00 X ISBN: 9780262528238 264 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 38 figures


  • There is much to be learned from reading this book, especially from the clarity that Lurz brings to his discussion of the logical problem... Lurz has provided a valuable guide to assessing a critical aspect of such experiments.

    American Scientist

  • The book is an important contribution to the discussion of animal mindreading, and should be read by philosophers and psychologists working on the topic. It is clear enough to serve as an introduction, and sophisticated enough to challenge the status quo.

    Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

  • [A] thorough, insightful, and prescriptive account. A nice overview of research into mind reading in animals and why the question is an important one philosophically and from the perspective of psychological theories of mind. We strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in what animals may know (or not know) about other minds, and even to those who are interested in animal cognition more broadly because a number of the most compelling research programs in animal cognition are outlined.



  • This important book should be widely read by philosophers and cognitive scientists alike. It provides a major advance in the debate on metarepresentational capacities in nonhuman animals, and will come to be seen as a landmark in this rapidly expanding field.

    Peter Carruthers

    Professor of Philosophy, University of Maryland, and author of The Architecture of the Mind

  • Lurz gives us the best guide out there to the last 30 years of animal theory of mind research, and his challenges to the methodology of mindreading studies offer scientists and philosophers provocative advice about how to move beyond the current debate.

    Kristin Andrews

    Department of Philosophy and Program in Cognitive Science, York University, Toronto

  • Lurz's book offers an unusual combination: an insightful analysis of the conceptual problems in the field of nonhuman mindreading and a collection of original and thought-provoking designs for innovative empirical research. All in all, we are in the presence of the most original contribution to the debate in many years.

    Juan Carlos Gómez

    School of Psychology, University of St. Andrews

  • An updated, argued view of animals as social, intelligent beings. Robert Lurz has the unique ability to translate difficult, controversial concepts in philosophy of mind and cognitive science into accessible ideas. The questioning of animal social intelligence at its best. A very exciting read.

    Claudia Uller

    Lecturer in Psychology and Neuroscience in Education, University of Cambridge