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Knowing what others can see: when it matters and when it doesn�t.

Victoria Southgate

Thursday, April 05, 2007, 01:00pm - 02:00pm

Birkbeck College, United Kingdom, School of Psychology

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Interpreting gaze may involve two independent cognitive processes, one which involves evaluating what someone is attending to, and another that involves an assumption that, when deployed in a communicative context, gaze signals a referential act (Csibra, in press). A number of recent studies have demonstrated that infants, from 12 months of age, take into account what others can and cannot see when interpreting their actions (e.g. Luo & Baillargeon, 2007; Onishi & Baillargeon, 2005). However, it is unclear from these studies whether infants go beyond attributing an absence of knowledge (ignorance) to actually representing the content of someone else�s mind (e.g a false-belief). In the first half of my talk, I will present eye-tracking data from 18- and 24-month-old infants in which we have been investigating whether they are capable of representing the content of someone else�s epistemic state. In the second part of my talk, I will present data from an ongoing study in which we have been exploring how 18-month-old infants interpret referential cues in a word learning situation. Referential communicative contexts may provide a special case where infants do not need to know that someone else can see something (e.g. an object) in order to infer that that person is nonetheless referring to that object. In this study, we have been pitting referential cues (like gaze direction and pointing) against visual access in order to explore how important it is to infants that the communicator has visual access to what it is that they are communicating about.

Victoria Southgate