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October 2021

The recognition of mentalistic agents in infancy

Journal/Book: Trends Cogn Sci. 2000; 4: 84 Theobalds Rd, London WC1X 8RR, England. Elsevier Science London. 22-28.

Abstract: The ability to construe ourselves and others as agents with minds having mental states such as perceptions, attention, desires and beliefs, is critical to humans' social, linguistic. And cognitive competence. When and how this ability becomes available to us during development is therefore of particular theoretical importance. Historically, most work in this area has concentrated on the ability of three- and four-year-olds to predict and explain behaviors based on false beliefs. With recent advances in the methods available for studying cognition in pre-verbal infants however, more research is now focused on earlier age groups. In this review, arguments are presented for and against the presence of a rudimentary 'theory of mind' in infancy, with evidence discussed from three sources: (1) infants' active interactions with people; (2) infants' passive observations of people; and (3) infants' interactions with, and observations, of non-human agents.

Note: Review Johnson SC, Univ Pittsburgh, Dept Psychol, 405 Langley Hall, Pittsburgh,PA 15260 USA


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