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Understanding Other MindsPerspectives from developmental social neuroscience$
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Simon Baron-Cohen, Michael Lombardo, and Helen Tager-Flusberg

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199692972

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199692972.001.0001

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Learning about the mind from evidence

Learning about the mind from evidence

Children’s development of intuitive theories of perception and personality

Chapter:
(p.19) Chapter 2 Learning about the mind from evidence
Source:
Understanding Other Minds
Author(s):

Andrew N. Meltzoff

Alison Gopnik

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199692972.003.0002

Where does our understanding of the mind come from? Here we focus on developmental plasticity and argue for a theory-theory account of children’s reasoning about the mind. Two examples are analyzed in depth: infants’ understanding of other people’s visual perspectives and children’s understanding of personality traits. In both we show that providing children particular patterns of evidence—whether about their own experience or about the behavior of others—leads them to create novel and systematic models of the mind. In both cases the idea of a “Bayesian framework principle” is invoked as a formal model of developmental change. It is argued that despite a shared initial state, key aspects of mental life vary in the myriad cultural, physical, and virtual environments human beings create. We show that theory-like inferential abilities, applied to conspecifics’ psychology, is particularly valuable for adapting to, and indeed thriving in that sort of social world.

Keywords:   Mental state attribution, gaze-following, personality traits, Like-me framework, the theory-theory, mechanisms of developmental change

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