Study adds new evidence that infants track others’ mental states

A new brain-imaging study supports the idea that infants as young as 7 months have a basic grasp of other people’s true and false beliefs. Photo and video by Kaitlin Southworth

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A brain-imaging study offers new support for the idea that infants can accurately track other people’s beliefs. When 7-month-old infants in the study viewed videos of an actor who saw – or failed to see – an object being moved to a new location, activity in a brain region known to play a role in processing others’ beliefs changed in the infants, just as it did in adults watching the same videos.

Psychology professor Daniel Hyde uses brain imaging to study infant cognition. In a new study, he found evidence to support the idea that infants have a basic knowledge of other people’s mental states.
Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

“This suggests that the infant brain, like that of adults, may distinguish when others hold true and false beliefs,” said University of Illinois psychology professor Daniel Hyde, who led the new research.

The findings, reported in The Journal of Neuroscience, add to the evidence that infants possess at least a basic “theory of mind,” Hyde said.

“Theory of mind would be your ability to think about other people’s mental states: the thoughts, beliefs or anything else that goes on in the head of another person,” he said. “It seems remarkable that an infant could have even a basic understanding of other people’s mental states. But when you consider all the things infants have to learn and how they learn, it makes sense that they would have at least some ability to imagine why people are doing what they are doing.”

Editor’s notes:
To reach Daniel Hyde, email dchyde@illinois.edu.
The paper “Functional organization of the temporal-parietal junction for theory of mind in preverbal infants: A near-infrared spectroscopy study” is available online and from the U. of I. News Bureau.
DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0264-17.2018

Source: Illinois NEWSBUREAU

 

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Study adds new evidence that infants track others’ mental states
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Study adds new evidence that infants track others’ mental states
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A brain-imaging study offers new support for the idea that infants can accurately track other people’s beliefs. When 7-month-old infants in the study viewed videos of an actor who saw – or failed to see – an object being moved to a new location, activity in a brain region known to play a role in processing others’ beliefs changed in the infants, just as it did in adults watching the same videos.