IV.    The networked brain

Hypothesis 13

Mother and newborn 1

Intihuatana + Temple Mount, Machu Picchu, Peru
Intihuatana + Temple Mount, Machu Picchu, Peru

The helplessness of the human newborn requires a new form of communication. The newborn monkey can communicate through purposeful actions.

The human newborn cannot. Instead, mothers have to guess their newborn’s wishes. They must understand the baby’s intentions in order to be able to provide the appropriate care.


While a newborn monkey is already an active member of its social group, the human newborn is helpless. The phenomena of mentalisation and intentionality are important to understand the mechanisms that work here and the abilities that need to be mastered by individuals.

Dunbar describes it as follows:

Nevertheless, primatologists have always assumed that there is such a thing as “social cognition” (a form of social recognition). This ability manifests itself in people as being able to put themselves in the mind of another person (a phenomenon known in psychological literature as “mentalising”.

This embracing of another individual’s mental state consists of a series of reflexive levels on which a thought can be read (captured). We call this series of order levels of intentionality, whereby “intentionality” is a general expression that encompasses mental states that are described in words such as to know, to believe, to suspect, to imagine, to accept, and to intend as well as comparable concepts.

The limit for an average adult is to measure fifth-order intentionality: “I think you think I was wondering if you think I’d like to do something”. (p. 258)

One thought on “280

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