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Psychological Reasoning in Infancy

Dr. Renee Baillargeon

Tuesday, December 09, 2008, 01:00pm - 02:00pm

University of Illinois, Department of Psychology

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Developmental psychologists have long been interested in uncovering the early roots of adults' ability to attribute mental states to others. Much of this research has involved simple scenes in which an agent acts on objects in a single setting, and has examined children's ability to reason about two kinds of internal states: motivational states, such as dispositions and goals, which specify the agent's motivation in the scene, and informational states, such as perceptions and beliefs, which specify the agent's information about the setting. Investigations of informational states typically distinguish between two levels of reasoning. Level-1 reasoning enables children to specify what accurate information an agent possesses or lacks, and allows them to deal with situations where the agent is ignorant about some aspect of the setting. Level-2 reasoning enables children to specify what inaccurate information an agent may possess, and allows them to deal with situations where the agent holds false or pretend beliefs about some aspect of the setting. My talk will focus primarily on level-2 reasoning. I will review experiments with toddlers and infants which suggest that the ability to reason about an agent's false beliefs emerges early in development.

Dr. Renee Baillargeon