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Developmental Psychology on Theory of Mind - Dictionary of Arguments

Slater I 155
Theory of Mind/ToM/false-belief task/FBT/developmental psychology: recent research in developmental pragmatics show that preverbal infants spontaneously take their audience’s perspective. 12-month olds’ pointing behaviors are best understood by positing that they are in some sense trying to influence the audience’s mental states (see Liszkowski, Carpenter, Henning, Striano, & Tomasello, 2004(1); Liszkowski, Carpenter, & Tomasello, 2007(2); Tomasello, Carpenter, & Liszkowski, 2007(3)).
Conversely, infants are able to interpret adults’ points and gaze direction as cues to their communicative intentions. In particular, infants use these behaviors in word learning situations as crucial cues to the speaker’s referential intent (Bloom, 2000(4); Nurmsoo & Bloom, 2008(5)). More strikingly still, recent research demonstrates that manipulating whether or not a communicator has a false belief leads 17 month-olds to different interpretations of the same communicative act, thereby demonstrating early mental state attribution in pragmatic contexts (Southgate, Chevallier, & Csibra, 2010(6); for similar results in an active helping paradigm, see Buttelmann, Carpenter, & Tomasello, 2009(7)). These recent results using behavioral measures also answer one of the standard criticisms formulated against violation of expectancy paradigms (as in Onishi & Baillargeon, 2005(8), and Surian, Caldi, & Sperber, 2007(9)), namely that indirect measures — such as looking times — cannot be straightforwardly used to infer complex underlying cognitive process.
VsBaron-Cohen: these results show that caution is needed when interpreting failures at the Sally-Anne task. (>Autism/Baron-Cohen, >False-Belief Task/psychological theories).


1 Liszkowski, U., Carpenter, M., Henning, A., Striano, T., & Tomasello, M. (2004). Twelve-month-olds point to share attention and interest. Developmental Science 7, 29 7—307.
2. Liszkowski, U., Carpenter, M., & Tomasello, M. (2007). Reference and attitude in infant pointing. Journal of Child Language, 34, 1—20.
3. Tomasello, M., Carpenter, M., & Liszkowski, U. (2007). A new look at infant pointing. Child Development, 78, 705—722.
4. Bloom, P. (2000). How children learn the meanings of words. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
5. Nurmsoo, E., & Bloom, P. (2008). Preschoolers’ perspective taking in word learning: Do they blindly follow eye gaze? Psychological Science, 19, 211—215.
6. Southgate, V., Chevallier, C., & Csibra, G. (2010). 1 7-month-olds appeal to false beliefs to interpret others’ communication. Developmental Science, 13, 907—912.
7. Buttelmann, D., Carpenter, M., & Tomasello, M. (2009). Eighteen-month-old infants show false belief understanding in an active helping paradigm. Cognition, 1 12, 337—342.
8. Onishi, K. H., & Baillargeon, R. (2005). Do 15-month-old infants understand false beliefs? Science, 308,5719,255—258.
9. Surian, L., Caldi, S., & Sperber, D. (2007). Attribution of beliefs by 13-month-old infants. Psychological Science, 18, 580—586.


Coralie Chevallier, “Theory of Mind and Autism. Beyond Baron-Cohen et al’s. Sally-Anne Study”, in: Alan M. Slater and Paul C. Quinn (eds.) 2012. Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies. London: Sage Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Developmental Psychology
Slater I
Alan M. Slater
Paul C. Quinn
Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2012


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