Evolution of Theory of Mind

Harmen de Weerd

Assistant Professor at University of Groningen

In social interactions, humans often make use of their “theory of mind”, which refers to their ability to reason about unobservable mental content of others. Humans can even use their theory of mind to reason about the way other use theory of mind. However, such higher-order theory of mind reasoning seems to be a uniquely human ability. This project revolves around the question of why such a cognitively demanding ability may have evolved for humans, but not for other species. By formalising the combination of evolutionary game theory and theory of mind models, we aim to understand what situations foster the evolution of higher-order theory of mind reasoning at a population level. Identifying these situations will help us understand why and when humans engage in different levels of theory of mind reasoning, and thereby what a human reasoner expects from their AI counterpart in a hybrid human-AI system.

Keywords: evolution, theory of mind

Scientific area: Artificial Intelligence

Bio: Harmen de Weerd is an assistant professor at the University of Groningen, researching interactions among intelligent agents, which includes robots, software agents, and humans. A key aspect in this line of research is the ability of artificial agents to reason about unobservable mental content such as beliefs, desires, and goals of their opponents and partners, a skill that is known as theory of mind in human agents.

Visiting period: April 2024 – July 2024 at Vrije Universiteit Brussel