Maternal Language and its Effect on Children’s Development of Theory of Mind


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  • Speaker: Irene Wu, Doctoral Student, Developmental Psychology, University of Michigan
  • Host Department: Psychology
  • Date: 11/11/2013
  • Time: 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

  • Location: 4464A East Hall

  • Description:

    Early home experiences with caregivers are typically described as an important factor in children’s development. The current study looked at possible ways to which maternal mental state talk may be contributing to children's theory of mind performance. The data was collected by the University of Michigan’s The Week in the Life of Families Project during the 2010-2011 school year. The participants were 40 preschool children and their mothers living in the Detroit, Oakland, and Ann Arbor-Saline area. Mothers and their child were asked to wear LENA recording devices and their recordings were transcribed and coded for different mental state terms. In addition, children were tested on 4 different theory of mind tasks and their scores were used as an indication of how well they grasped different theory of mind concepts. Results indicated that there were differences in the types of mental state terms mothers were using with their children and that in turn affected the children's own use of mental state terms and their performance on different theory of mind tasks.



    Bio: A third year doctoral student in developmental psychology working with Dr. Pamela Davis-Kean. Received my undergraduate degree in Social Work at Soochow University in Taiwan. Went to New York University and received her M.A in Applied Psychology. Future research possibilities include looking at how multiethnic communities, families and schools can work together to help children perform better in schools.