Wintersemester 2016/17

Programm Wintersemester 2016/17


17. November 2016:

Chris Krupenye (MPI Leipzig)

Do great apes understand others' false beliefs?

Humans operate with a "theory-of-mind" with which they understand that others’ actions are driven not by reality but by beliefs about reality, even when those beliefs are false. Although great apes share with humans many social-cognitive skills, they have repeatedly failed experimental tests of such false belief understanding. Using an anticipatory looking test (originally developed for human infants), we show that three species of great apes reliably look in anticipation of an agent acting on a location where he falsely believes an object to be, even though they themselves know that it is no longer there. These results, we argue, suggest that great apes also operate—at least on an implicit level—with an understanding of false beliefs. I will additionally discuss alternative explanations and important future directions.

24. November 2016:

Sebastian Dörrenberg (Universität Hamburg)

Does the infant really have a Theory of Mind?

We investigated whether early Theory of Mind abilities reflect a unitary ToM capacity. 24-month-olds were tested across different false belief change-of-location paradigms (anticipation, violation-of-expectation, helping). We found unrelated performances and only weak evidence for a ToM competence in infants. Findings are discussed with regard to reality-based versus belief-based processing.

8. Dezember 2016:

Katharina Helming (MPI Leipzig)

A pragmatic solution to the puzzle about early false-belief understanding

The developmental investigation of false-belief understanding has yielded discrepant findings. Evidence stemming from spontaneous-response tasks suggests that pre-verbal infants expect an agent to act in accordance with the content of her true or false belief. However, 3-year-olds fail elicited-response false-belief tasks in which they are asked by an experimenter to predict a mistaken agent’s action. In order to reconcile these differing sets of findings, a pragmatic framework will be articulated. Young children do understand the content of others’ false beliefs, but they are overwhelmed when they must simultaneously make sense of two distinct actions: the instrumental action of a mistaken agent and the experimenter's communicative action. Evidence from two studies will be presented, suggesting in line with this theoretical framework that immature pragmatic abilities, not immature theory-of-mind, underlie 3-year-olds’ difficulties in elicited-response false-belief tasks.


Daniela Avila (Georg-August Universität Göttingen)

Longitudinal study of phonological and semantic priming effects German and Mexican monolingual infants.

Children begin to speak their first words approximately at 12 months old, suggesting that lexical acquisition begins early in childhood. By 18-months, children can recognize a word faster when primed by an image phonologically related to the target word (e.g. dog-door) relative to a phonologically unrelated image (e.g. dog-boat). And by 21-months children begin to develop semantic-associative links between lexical items (e.g. sheep-cow) and prioritise semantic information over colour information in word recognition by 24 months (e.g. children orient faster to an image of a cookie relative to a yellow cup upon hearing the prime banana). However priming studies made to date have a transversal or between groups design. In the current study, we run a longitudinal design to test phonological and semantic priming effects in German and Mexican monolingual infants from 18- to 24-months old. This is the first study, so far, with these characteristics.

7. Februar 2017:

Gil Diesendruck (Bar-Ilan University)

The origins of social concepts

Studies reveal links between adults’ essentialist beliefs about, and attitudes towards, various social categories. Social psychologists argue that this link might result from adults’ understanding of dominance hierarchies, social systems, or social identities. The present developmental studies investigated whether such links derive from fundamental motivations, namely ingroup affiliation and outgroup avoidance. The first studies assessed these questions among Jewish Israeli 5-10 year-olds, in the context of their beliefs and attitudes towards Jews and Arabs. The latter studies looked at these motivations as potentially influencing the very formation of social categories in infancy. Altogether, social essentialism and categorization seem to derive from fundamental affiliative and avoidance motivations, rather than a full-fledged understanding of social structures.

16. Februar 2017:

Josef Perner (Universität Salzburg)

Mental Files Theory of Mind

How do we understand the mind and how do we come to this understanding? I will contrast 3 basic positions that are loosely subsumed under the label of “theory of mind”: the theory that we have a theory about the mind, that we simulate others’ minds on our own mind, and that we assume people act for good reasons (teleology). I propose a cognitive mechanism for how this understanding is implemented using mental files theory. A mental (object) file represents (refers to) a particular object. What is known about the object is registered on that file. Mental files theory of mind assumes that we capture the perspective of another person by having a second, vicarious file of that object. This is required for understanding false beliefs about the object. What one knows about it is recorded on one’s regular file, what the other person believes about it on the vicarious file. The two files are co-referential, because both refer to the same object. I will present evidence for this theory from development and brain imaging. Children’s understanding of false beliefs around 4 years correlates consistently with other tasks involving coreferential files, e.g., identity statements, which express the co-referentiality of two files. Adult versions of these tasks activate a common brain region (posterior supramarginal gyrus). I conclude by arguing that mental file theory is particularly congenial to teleology.