Winter Term 2017/18

Program Winter Term 2017/18

October 19th 2017:

Sarah Beck (University of Birmingham) - organized within the frame of the Research Training Group 2070: Understanding Social Relationships

Thinking about what might have been: the development of children’s counterfactual thinking

Adults often think about 'what might have been' and experience counterfactual emotions, most commonly regret, as a result of this. In this talk I will present data that suggests that counterfactual thinking has a protracted development in childhood and (in part) relies on development of executive functions. Among the many types of imaginative thought, counterfactual thinking is special in the relation it holds with reality. When speculating about what might have been, individuals must avoid dwelling on the real world and yet also generate closely matched alternatives that are relevant to real experiences and choices. I will review data suggesting that managing this relation makes specific cognitive demands in development, which may or may not persist in the adult system. I will also explore whether children, like adults, spontaneously infer aspects of the real world on hearing counterfactuals.

November 9th 2017:

Josef Perner (University of Salzburg) - jointly organized with the Leibniz ScienceCampus

Mental Files Development: Theory of Mind and Spatial Cognition

Mental files theory of development can explain why seemingly unrelated tasks like understanding identity statements (the teacher is Susi’s mother) and understanding belief (Max thinks his chocolate is in its old location) develop together. Recent data suggest that this commonality breaks up for spatial reasoning. A plausible explanation is that spatial information about one’s environment is represented in analogue spatial models rather than on files for individual objects. This eliminates young children’s problem with identity in some spatial reasoning tasks. Whereas, beliefs about spatial relations are encoded on object files rather than spatial models of another person’s perspective. Therefore, spatial reasoning problems with someone else’s belief about an object’s location persist.

December 14th 2017:

Ian Apperly (University of Birmingham)

Why are there gaps between mindreading competence and performance?

We know that adults have the competence to mindread – to represent the beliefs, desires and intentions of others - and there is evidence that at least some mindreading is performed with a significant degree of automaticity. Why, then, do we sometimes appear not to mindread successfully, and why do some people seem better at this than others? I will argue that much mindreading occurs spontenaously rather than automatically. Spontaneous mindreading does not require explicit prompting, but is conditional on motivation and on the availability of sufficient cognitive resources. I will also argue that whether mental states are inferred automatically, spontaneously, or under instruction, there is no guarantee that this information will be integrated to guide ongoing behaviour, in social interaction or communication. Such integration also requires motivation and cognitive resources. The need for motivation and cognitive resources opens the door to predictable patterns of variable performance in mindreading, both within and between individuals. Finally, I will argue that some mindreading requires uncertain, “abductive” inferences, which are likely to highly depend on familiarity with the situation in which the inference is made, and therefore variable within and between individuals in different contexts and cultures.

January 11th 2018:

Azzurra Ruggeri (MPI for Human Development)

Ecological learning: How children adapt their active learning strategies to achieve efficiency.

How do young children learn so much about the world so efficiently? This talk presents the results of recent studies investigating theoretically and empirically how children actively seek information in their physical and social environments as evidence to test and dynamically revise their hypotheses and theories over time. In particular, it will focus on how children adapt their active learning strategies, such as question-asking and explorative behavior, in response to the task characteristics, to the statistical structure of the hypothesis space, and to the feedback received. Such adaptiveness and flexibility is crucial to learn in situations of uncertainty, when testing alternative hypotheses, making decisions, drawing causal inferences and solving categorisation tasks.

February 20th 2018:

Daniel Bernstein (Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Canada)

Social cognition across the lifespan

Abstract will soon be added.