I conduct philosophical and empirical work in psychology and biology. My current focus is on the cognitive and communicative abilities of great apes. I also work on the use of mechanistic explanation in science.

Animal Mindreading

Mindreading is the ability to attribute psychological states to others - it is what we do when we take into account others' perceptions, desires, or beliefs. The question of whether nonhuman animals mindread has been pursued by scientists for over the last three decades, but there is still controversy over what conclusions to draw from this research. I approach this debate by appealing to lessons learned from general philosophy of science, defending the claim that we have good evidence for nonhuman animal mindreading.

  • Bausman, W. & Halina, M. (In press). Not Null Enough: Pseudo-Null Hypotheses in Community Ecology and Comparative Psychology. [PDF]
  • Halina, M (2017). What Apes Know About Seeing. Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Animal Minds, Kristin Andrews and Jake Beck (Eds). [PDF]
  • Halina, M (2015). There is No Special Problem of Mindreading in Nonhuman Animals. Philosophy of Science, 82, 473-490. [PDF]
  • Halina, M (2014). Review of “Mindreading Animals: The Debate over What Animals Know about Other Minds” by Robert Lurz. Philosophical Psychology, 27(2), 284-287. [PDF]

Great Ape Gestural Communication

Apes produce gestures that appear to have the function of directing an agent's attention to a place or object. Are these gestures a form of pointing? I address this question by clarifying what we mean by pointing and how to test it. I have also conducted experiments on the development and function of pointing in bonobos and chimpanzees in collaboration with comparative psychologists.

I am also interested in the mechanisms involved in the development of ape gestures more generally. Here I have defended the hypothesis that bonobos learn gestures through a process of ontogenetic ritualization against those who hold that they are innate.

  • Halina, M., Liebal, K., & Tomasello, M (2018). Do chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos (Pan paniscus) point in order to direct attentional states? PLOS ONE. [PDF]
  • Halina, M., Rossano, F., & Tomasello, M (2013). The Ontogenetic Ritualization of Bonobo Gestures. Animal Cognition, 16(4), 653-666. [PDF]

Mechanistic Explanation

Much work in biology and psychology is dedicated to the discovery of mechanisms. What tools do scientists use in mechanism discovery and why are such discoveries important? As a step towards answering these questions, I examine the use of model organisms in mechanistic research and the so-called ontic constraints scientists make when giving mechanistic explanations. I have also argued that the lessons learned from the mechanistic movement in philosophy of science should be more widely communicated in order to aid the understanding and practices of scientists and citizen scientists.

  • Halina, M. (2017). Mechanistic Explanation and Its Limits. Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Mechanisms, Stuart Glennan and Phyllis Illari (Eds). [PDF]
  • Halina, M. (2015). Understanding Mechanistic Research. Review of In Search of Mechanisms: Discoveries Across the Life Sciences by Carl F. Craver and Lindley Darden. Metascience. [PDF]
  • Halina, M. & Bechtel, B. (2013). Mechanism, Conserved. In Encyclopedia of Systems Biology, W. Dubitzky, O. Wolkenhauer, H. Yokota, & K. H. Cho (Eds.), Springer Publishing Company, Incorporated. [PDF]