Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Open Peer Commentary
Dienes & Perner: Implicit and explicit knowledge

Explicitness and predication: A risky linkage

Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy a1
a1 Department of Linguistics, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand


Dienes & Perner (D&P) link explicit knowledge of facts to predication. But predication is basically a linguistic notion. Their approach therefore makes it difficult to attribute knowledge of facts to non- language-users, such as animals. The explicit/implicit distinction, as D&P formulate it, is accordingly of little use for exploring the cognitive capacities of nonhuman primates – despite the increasing evidence for sophisticated social awareness among apes, implying mental representations of events in which participants are clearly distinguished. A revised formulation, less biased toward syntax as it happens to have evolved in humans, could avoid this drawback.