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October 2021

Origins of theory of mind, cognition and communication

Journal/Book: J Commun Disord. 1999; 32: 655 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10010, USA. Elsevier Science Inc. 251-269.

Abstract: There has been a revolution in our understanding of infant and toddler cognition that promises to have far-reaching implications for our understanding of communicative and linguistic development. Four empirical findings that helped to prompt this change in theory are analyzed: (a) Intermodal coordination-newborns operate with multimodal information, recognizing equivalences in information across sensory-modalities; (b) Imitation-newborns imitate the lip and tongue movements they see others perform; (c) Memory-young infants form long-lasting representations of perceived events and use these memories to generate motor productions after lengthy delays in novel contexts; (d) Theory of mind-by 18 months of age toddlers have adopted a theory of mind, reading below surface behavior to the goals and intentions in people's actions. This paper examines three views currently being offered in the literature to replace the classical framework of early cognitive development: modularity-nativism connectionism, and theory-theory. Arguments are marshaled to support the ''theory-theory'' view. This view emphasizes a combination of innate structure and qualitative reorganization in children's thought based on input from the people and things in their culture. It is suggested that preverbal cognition forms a substrate for language acquisition and that analyzing cognition may enhance our understanding of certain disorders of communication.

Note: Article Meltzoff AN, Univ Washington, Dept Psychol, Box 357920, Seattle,WA 98195 USA

Keyword(s): intermodal coordination; imitation; memory; theory of mind; representation; language acquisition; face perception; DEFERRED IMITATION; 14-MONTH-OLD INFANTS; MORAL SIGNIFICANCE; NEWBORN-INFANTS; MEMORY; SPEECH; REPRESENTATION; GESTURES; OBJECT; CATEGORIZATION

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