- Brandone, A., Horwitz, S., Aslin, R., & Wellman, H. (under review). Infants' goal anticipation during successful and failed reaching actions.
- Rhodes, M. & Wellman, H. (under review). The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Psychological Science.
- Dunphy-Lelii, S., LaBounty, J., Hetherington, C., & Wellman, H. (under review). The social context of infant intention understanding. Journal of Cognition and Development.
- Kushnir, T., Xu, F., & Wellman, H. M. (2010). Young children use statistical sampling to infer the preferences of others. Psychological Science, 21, 1134-1140.
- Brandone, A. & Wellman, H. M. (2009). You can’t always get what you want: Infants understand failed goal-directed actions. Psychological Science, 20, 85-91. Link to press release
- Wellman, H. M., Lopez-Duran, S., LaBounty, J., & Hamilton, B. (2008). Infant attention to intentional action predicts preschool theory of mind. Developmental Psychology, 44, 618-623.
This research examines whether there are continuities between infant social attention and later theory of mind. Forty-five children were studied as infants and then again as 4-year-olds. Measures of infant social attention (decrement of attention during habituation to displays of intentional action) significantly predicted later theory of mind (false-belief understanding). Possibly, this longitudinal association could have been explained by more general developments in IQ, verbal competence, or executive function (rather than continuities in the realm of social cognition). However, the association remained significant and undiminished even when IQ, verbal competence, and executive function were controlled. The findings thus provide strong support for an important continuity in social cognition separable from continuities in more general information processing. Copyright © 2008 by the American Psychological Association. Reproduced with permission.
- Amsterlaw, J. & Wellman, H. M. (2006). Theories of Mind in Transition: A Microgenetic Study of the Development of False Belief Understanding. Journal of Cognition and Development, 7, 139 - 172.
- Phillips, A. T. & Wellman, H. M. (2005). Infants' understanding of object-directed action. Cognition, 98, 137-155.
- Dunphy-Lelii, S. & Wellman, H. M. (2004). Infants' understanding of occlusion of others' line-of-sight: Implications for an emerging theory of mind, European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 1, 49-66.
- Wellman, H.M. & Liu, D. (2004) Scaling of theory of mind tasks. Child Development, 75, 523-541.
- Wellman, H. M., Phillips, A. T., Dunphy-Lelii, S., & LaLonde, N. (2004). Infant social attention predicts preschool social cognition. Developmental Science, 7, 283-288.
- Phillips, A. T., Wellman, H.M., & Spelke, E. S. (2002). Infants' ability to connect gaze and emotional expression to intentional action. Cognition, 85, 53-78.
- Wellman, H. M. (2002) Understanding the psychological world: Developing a theory of mind. In U. Goswami (Ed.), Handbook of Childhood Cognitive Development (pp. 167-187). Oxford: Blackwell. Link to full text
- Wellman, H. M., Cross, D., & Watson, J. (2001) A meta-analysis of theory of mind development: The truth about false belief. Child Development, 72, 655-684.
Psychological scientists use statistical information to determine the workings of human behavior. We argue that young children do so as well. Over the course of a few years, children progress from viewing human actions as intentional and goal directed to reasoning about the psychological causes underlying such actions. Here, we show that preschoolers and 20-month-old infants can use statistical information—namely, a violation of random sampling—to infer that an agent is expressing a preference for one type of toy instead of another type of toy. Children saw a person remove five toys of one type from a container of toys. Preschoolers and infants inferred that the person had a preference for that type of toy when there was a mismatch between the sampled toys and the population of toys in the box. Mere outcome consistency, time spent with the toys, and positive attention toward the toys did not lead children to infer a preference. These findings provide an important demonstration of how statistical learning could underpin the rapid acquisition of early psychological knowledge. © Association for Psychological Science.
Microgenetic methods were used to document young children's (N = 36; M age = 3;5) acquisition of false belief (FB) understanding and investigate developmental mechanisms. A control group received no experience with FB; 2 other groups received microgenetic sessions designed to promote FB understanding. Over consecutive weeks, microgenetic groups received implicit feedback about their performance on 24 FB tasks and generated explanations for FB events. Only 1 microgenetic group improved. Differences in the schedules of microgenetic experience and in the amount and type of FB explanation children engaged in accounted for these differences. Improving children developed FB understandings gradually and exhibited fluctuating task performance, suggesting slow conceptual restructuring, not sudden insight. This work provides the first microgenetic record of children's transition to a representational theory of mind. © Taylor & Francis Group.
When and in what ways do infants recognize humans as intentional actors? An important aspect of this larger question concerns when infants recognize specific human actions (e.g. a reach) as object-directed (i.e. as acting toward goal-objects). In two studies using a visual habituation technique, 12-month-old infants were tested to assess their recognition that an adult's reach is directed toward its target object. Infants in the experimental condition were habituated to a display in which an actor reached over a wall-like barrier with an arcing arm movement, to pick up a ball. After habituation infants saw two test displays, for which the barrier was removed. In the "direct" test event the actor reached directly for the ball, the arm tracing a visually new path, but the action consistent with attempting to reach for the object as directly as possible. In the "indirect" test event the actor traced the old path, reaching over in an arc, even though the wall was no longer present. This arm movement was identical to that in habituation but no longer displayed a reach going directly to its object. In a control condition infants saw the same movements but in a situation with no goal-object. In the experimental conditions, with a goal object present, infants looked longer at the indirect test event in comparison to the direct test event. In the control conditions infants looked equally at both indirect and direct test events. We conclude that sensitivity to human object-directed action is established by 12-month-olds and compare these results to recent findings by [Gergely, G., Nadasdy, Z., Csibra, G., & Biro S. (1995). Taking the intentional stance at 12 months of age. "Cognition, 56," 165-193] and [Woodward, A. (1998). Infants selectively encode the goal object of an actor's reach. "Cognition, 69," 1-34]. © Elsevier B.V.
Infants' gaze following provides information about their understanding of others' perception and attention. Gaze following when the other looks in the presence (and absence) of visual obstacles can be especially informative. In the present study the gaze-following behaviour of 14- and 18-month-old infants was examined in opaque barrier, clear barrier, and non-barrier situations in order to investigate whether infants at this age understand the referential nature of looking. A hypothesis positing that infants grasp the referential nature of gaze would predict that infants would not follow gaze when the looker's gaze is blocked (as in an opaque barrier situation), but would follow gaze in both non-barrier and clear barrier situations. This hypothesis was contrasted with two other “leaner” interpretations predicting contrasting patterns of looking in the same situations. Results showed that both 18- and 14-month-old infants followed gaze as predicted by the richer, referential account. © Taylor & Francis Group.
Two studies address the sequence of understandings evident in preschoolers' developing theory of mind. The first, preliminary study provides a meta-analysis of research comparing different types of mental state understandings (e.g., desires vs. beliefs, ignorance vs. false belief). The second, primary study tests a theory-of-mind scale for preschoolers. In this study 75 children (aged 2 years, 11 months to 6 years, 6 months) were tested on 7 tasks tapping different aspects of understanding persons' mental states. Responses formed a consistent developmental progression, where for most children if they passed a later item they passed all earlier items as well, as confirmed by Guttman and Rasch measurement model analyses. © The Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.
Recent research examining infants' understanding of intentional action claims to be studying the early origins or precursors of children's later theories of mind. If these infant understandings are continuous with later preschool achievements, there should be empirical connections between the two. We provide initial evidence that infants' social attention predicts later social cognition. Specifically, 14-month-olds' habituation to human intentional action significantly predicts later preschool mentalistic construal of persons, as measured on a Theory of Mind Scale. © Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Four studies investigated whether and when infants connect information about an actor's affect and perception to their action. Arguably, this may be a crucial way in which infants come to recognize the intentional behaviors of others. In Study 1 an actor grasped one of two objects in a situation where cues from the actor's gaze and expression could serve to determine which object would be grasped, specifically the actor first looked at and emoted positively about one object but not the other. Twelve-month-olds, but not 8-month-olds, recognized that the actor was likely to grasp the object which she had visually regarded with positive affect. Studies 2, 3, and 4 replicated the main finding from Study 1 with 12- and 14-month-olds and included several contrasting conditions and controls. These studies provide evidence that the ability to use information about an adult's direction of gaze and emotional expression to predict action is both present, and developing at the end of the first year of life. © Elsevier Science B.V.
Conducted meta-analysis to examine empirical inconsistencies and theoretical controversies concerning false-belief tasks and understanding about mental states. Found that a combined model including age, country of origin, and four task factors accounted for 55 percent of the variance in false-belief performance. Findings are consistent with theoretical accounts proposing that understanding of belief exhibit conceptual change in the preschool years. © The Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.
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