Summer term 2016

14. April 2016:

Arunima Sarin (University College London, UK)

Moral judgements

Moral judgments are integral for the smooth functioning of law and society. Two key factors involved in making moral judgments are intention and outcome. Using information on those two accounts, people blame others for transgressions and praise them for good deeds. In a series of four experiments, we examine how moral judgments are affected when the intention of an agent is incongruent with the outcome. Our results reveal reduced attribution of responsibility and causality for agents’ demonstrating an incongruence. An interesting finding of the experiments is the asymmetry between the evaluations of the two incongruent conditions such that a bad intentioned agents is held less responsible and causal for producing positive outcomes than a good intentioned agent who produces negative outcome. Further, people seem more susceptible to information on intentions in making blame or praise judgments. These exploratory experiments therefore demonstrate a previously unexplored asymmetry in people’s moral judgment of a situation when intentions and outcomes mismatch.

21. April 2016:

Alexandra M. Freund

Focusing on the means or ends of goal pursuit: Adaptiveness and age-related changes in goal focus

While pursuing a goal, people can focus more on the means or the outcome of goal pursuit. I will introduce and provide empirical support for the hypothesis that, with increasing age, adults become more process focused. Turning to the consequences of goal focus, a number of studies suggest that adults profit more from a process focus regarding subjective well-being and successful goal pursuit regardless of age. Taken together, this line of research suggests that a stronger focus on the process vs. the outcome of goal pursuit is (a) related to age, and (b) contributes to successful goal pursuit are stable across adulthood.

12. May 2016:

Cilia Witteman

Intuitive vs. deliberate clinical decision making

Whereas in most domains there is a direct link between experience and expertise, this is not so in mental health. I will explain why that is so, and present a study that addresses the question “If the performance of clinicians in mental health does not improve (much) when they gain more experience, what does experience do?” We used vignettes, Mouselabweb, triads and a questionnaire to find out the relations between thinking style preferences (analytical vs. intuitive), decision processes (time, acquisitions) and accuracy.

19. May 2016:

Steve Butterfill

Beliefs, Preferences and Goals in Infants’ Mindreading Abilities

Developmental findings on mindreading generate a puzzle. It seems that for many children, there is an age at which:

(a) the child passes some false belief tasks by relying on a model of minds and actions that does incorporate beliefs;

(b) the child fails other false belief tasks because she relies on a model of minds and actions that does not incorporate beliefs; and

(c) the child has a single model of minds and actions.

These three claims are jointly inconsistent so one of them must be false. But researchers disagree about which claim to reject. The construction of minimal theory of mind provides a principled way of rejecting (c), the claim that the child has a single model of minds and actions. While the predictions conjectures about minimal theory of mind generates have so far mostly been confirmed, Michael and Christensen have recently raised a theoretical challenge concerning the ascription of preferences and goals (Psychological Review 123, no. 2 (2016): 219–27. doi:10.1037/rev0000016). In this talk I will review the mindreading puzzle and the theoretical idea that humans have multiple models of minds and actions before introducing, and attempting to reply to, the new challenge about preferences and goals.

07. Juni 2016:

Daniel M. Bernstein

I knew it and so did you! Social cognition across the lifespan

Social cognition permits us to communicate and empathize through our assessment of what others know and feel. Yet, our own knowledge and feelings often limit our ability to take another’s perspective, or know how another feels. Our own knowledge can also limit our ability to recognize our own prior ignorance. These errors occur frequently in children, but also in adults. A challenge for social scientists is to develop tools and methods to study social cognition in children and adults. I will present work exploring social cognition from preschool to old age. Fusing developmental, cognitive, and learning sciences, this research can benefit researchers, teachers, students, policy makers and parents.

23. June 2016:

Marco Schmidt

Young Children’s Developing Understanding of Normative Phenomena

The capacity for normativity – our understanding of right and wrong – lies at the core of uniquely human forms of structuring and understanding socio-cultural group life. Over the last couple of years, there has been an increasing interest across disciplines in the early ontogeny of normativity. In this talk, I will first present our theoretical framework for investigating young children’s developing understanding of normativity. I will then report developmental research within this framework that focuses on young children’s application and learning of normative phenomena in social interactions. Our findings suggest that even young children develop normative attitudes toward others’ conduct in a variety of different contexts. Thus, they criticize and protest violations of different kinds of practical norms (e.g., pertaining to moral or conventional matters) in rational and context-dependent ways. And young children seem to quickly make normative inferences based on sparse evidence: They spontaneously infer the presence of a social norm from watching a single action in a context devoid of clear (e.g., linguistic or pedagogical) cues indicating normativity. Moreover, while young children understand some basics of the ontology of norms (e.g., that norms can be established by agreement), preschool children even jointly create norms with peers and understand self-created norms as entities that are not only enforceable, but also changeable. Finally, children’s understanding of normative phenomena is not confined to practical norms, but extends to issues of epistemic normativity: Preliminary findings suggest that by preschool age, children understand something about the social-normative status of knowledge, namely, that we are entitled to claim knowledge about some state of affairs if we have good reason to do so. Together, these findings suggest that normativity is an integral part of human social cognition from early in ontogeny. Hence, young children not only attempt to explain and predict others’ actions in causal-descriptive terms – rather, they are eager to learn about the ways “we” do things and even to co-construct and actively defend our shared normative reality.

29. June 2016:

Arielle Borovsky

Beyond lexical bean counting: using semantic structure in vocabulary to understand language learning and processing

Measures of early vocabulary growth often focus on the number of words children know and say, and this enterprise has yielded many insights into the development of early language skills. But early word growth is not random – children tend to learn words that have connections with their existing vocabulary (Hills et al. 2009). This insight suggests that mapping the structure of the early lexicon may illustrate important processes in language learning. I will discuss ongoing work that highlights how accounting for semantic structure of early vocabulary knowledge can lend insights into language processing and word learning. I will first describe recent studies that track real-time lexical recognition of known and novel words as a function of semantic vocabulary structure. I will then outline a project to develop detailed feature norms for many early-acquired concepts that will facilitate the development of graph-theoretic metrics of early vocabulary structure and discuss potential implications for the development of vocabulary interventions and models of early language acquisition.

07. July 2016:

Kristina Musholt

Towards a multi-level account of the social self

In this talk I will argue that the notion of nonconceptual self-consciousness is problematic because it conflates implicitly self-related information and explicit self-representation, where the latter is required for self-consciousness. I will propose that the transition from self-related information implicit in the nonconceptual content of perception and other forms of experience to the explicit representation of the self in conceptual thought arises from a gradual process of self-other-differentiation. Finally, I will sketch some implications of this view for the theory of mind debate.