Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Continuing Commentary
Commentary on C. M. Heyes (1998) Theory of mind in nonhuman primates. BBS 21:101–148.

Theory of mind and the “somatic marker mechanism” (SMM)

Bruce G. Charlton a1
a1 Department of Psychology, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, United Kingdom


The “somatic marker mechanism” (SMM; Damasio 1994) is proposed as the cognitive and neural basis of the theory of mind mechanism. The SMM evolved for evaluating the intentions, dispositions, and relationships of conspecifics; hence, it is adaptive in the social domain. It is predicted that chimpanzees will indeed have theory of mind (ToM) ability, but that this will be socially domain-specific. Domain-general ToM will be found only in primates with abstract, symbolic language (adult humans). Putative ToM tests require revision in the light of these distinctions.