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Theory Of Mind Dissertation

Emergence of theory of mind

Caitlin M Hudac, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

Preference for social engagement at birth indicates that social abilities emerge early and have a deeply seated biological basis (Grossmann & Johnson, 2007). Complex social cognition involving the attribution of mental states, beliefs, and desires is called Theory of Mind (ToM). Recent work by Kovács, Téglás, & Endress (2010) suggests that by 7-months infants are capable of ToM, previously thought to be immature until at least 3 years of age. Yet, much remains unknown about how infants integrate and process complex social information. This dissertation breaks new ground in investigating early-emerging ToM mechanisms during infancy (i.e, between 6-10 months). Two aims are addressed: (1) To chart changes in the functional patterns of brain activity and looking behavior associated with the emergence of ToM abilities; (2) To create a computational model addressing theoretical accounts of ToM mechanisms. Infants were enrolled between 6-7.5 months of age in a longitudinal research study. After interactive training to learn object names, infants completed a laboratory session in which event-related potentials and eye movements were acquired while infants observed ToM vignettes. Infants returned after 8 weeks and repeated the procedures to assess the maturation of brain-behavior relationships over time. A series of dynamic neural field models were generated to describe ongoing maturational changes of ToM mechanisms. Finally, a quantitative analysis evaluated how brain-behavior data fit the simulation models of ToM emergence across the second 6-months of life.^

Subject Area

Biology, Neuroscience|Psychology, Developmental

Recommended Citation

Hudac, Caitlin M, "Emergence of theory of mind" (2014). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3626333.
https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI3626333

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Since September 19, 2014

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The role of desire in children's theory of mind

Margalit Ziv, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

Children's theory of mind consists of two core mental states: belief and desire. The majority of research has focused on belief, specifically false belief, demonstrating an age-related improvement between 3 and 5 years, However, studying children's understanding of desire, as well as the relation between desire and belief, is important for forming an adequate picture of theory of mind development and determining the relation between children's theory of mind and their actual social understanding. ^ A series of studies investigated two aspects of the role of desire in children's theory of mind. The studies tested the claim that young children fail false belief because they base their belief judgments on desire inferences (Bartsch & Wellman, 1995; Fodor, 1992). Children of 3-, 4-, and 5-years were presented with standard false belief and representational change tasks, and were asked about the agent's desire and belief. The discrepancy between desire and belief responses indicated that desire reasoning cannot account for failure on false belief. ^ Whether desire reasoning is easier than false belief was also examined. A new prosocial conflict-in-desire task was presented to 3-, 4-, 5-, and 6-year-olds. They were asked to predict what an agent would do to play with a partner whose desire conflicted with their own. Only 6-year-olds could say that the agent should act in accord with the partner's desire, that is, play what the partner likes. ^ The findings suggest a new explanation of desire reasoning driven from an important difference between belief and desire. Whereas beliefs can be true or false, desires can be fulfilled or unfulfilled. Consequently, a conflict in belief occurs when one belief is true and the other is false. However, a conflict in desire occurs when two desires cannot be fulfilled simultaneously and an inference is required to shift from fulfilling one desire to another. ^ The current studies indicate that desire reasoning cannot explain young children's failure in false belief tasks, that desire is inferred differently from belief, and that certain conflicts in desire can be more difficult than false belief. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Developmental|Psychology, Cognitive

Recommended Citation

Ziv, Margalit, "The role of desire in children's theory of mind" (1999). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9953625.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI9953625

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Since July 16, 2004

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