Emergence of Theory of Mind in Human Babies

Session Date: 
Oct 18, 2013

Theory of mind, the ability to predict, describe and explain one’s own and others’ behavior with reference to mental states, plays a central role in human social cognition and behavior. Classic research suggests critical developments in children’s explicit theory of mind in the preschool years. Yet well before this time infants and young children possess sophisticated knowledge that guides their understanding of the social world. In this talk I review evidence to suggest that, within the first year of life, infants develop an understanding of transient mental states (such as goals and desires), enduring personal dispositions (such as preferences), and socio-moral norms (such as fairness norms), that is driven by their own actions on the world, as well as their interactions with other people. These findings suggest that infants’ developing social knowledge is rich, rapidly acquired, and experience-dependent.

File 2013_10_18_010_Sommerville.mp493.8 MB