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 [email protected]


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.