Mind Reading and the Evolution of Vision

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A fascinating insight from an interview with theoretical neurobiologist Mark Changizi, who thinks about vision:

‘I was intrigued by the “mind reading” aspects of vision. In a nutshell, how does this work, and how do humans benefit from this ability?’

‘Our color vision fundamentally relies upon the cones in our retina, and I argue in my research that color vision evolved in us primates for the purpose of sensing the emotions and states of those around us. We primates have an unusual kind of color vision – our cones sample the visible spectrum in a peculiar fashion – and I have shown that one needs that kind of peculiar color sense in order to pick up the color modulations that occur on our skin when we blush, blanch, redden with anger, and so on. Our funny primate variety of color vision turns out to be optimized for seeing the physiological modulations in the blood in the skin that underlies our primate color signals.

So, we evolved special mechanisms designed for sensing the emotions and states of others around us. That sounds a lot like the evolution of a “mind-reading” mechanism, which is why I (only half in jest) describe it that way.’ (N e u r o n a r r a t i v e)