Pierre Jacob’s blog

This blog is devoted to issues in the investigation of human social cognition.

Are human toddlers unable to understand the aspectuality of a puppet’s belief that the bunny is not a carrot?

In an earlier post, I spelled out what philosophers and psychologists of mindreading call “the aspectuality of belief.” To understand the aspectuality of belief is to understand that a person can believe that Cicero was bald without believing that Tully was, if she does not know that Tully was Cicero — in spite of the fact that the state of affairs of Cicero’s being bald is no other than the state of affairs of Tully’s being bald. ...

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What does the infant brain tell us about human Theory of Mind?

Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is a non-invasive technique that measures how light scatters differently on the surface of the brain as a function of brain activity. It is less powerful than functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), but it’s cheaper and more portable. A couple of recent studies by Daniel Hyde and his collaborators using fNIRS shed light on what has become a central issue in the developmental investigation of human Theory of Mind (TOM). ...

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Children’s grasp of the aspectuality of beliefs: the Sefo task revisited

Understanding the aspectuality of belief is regarded by many leading developmental psychologists as a hallmark of full-blown theory of mind. As Hannes Rakoczy (2017, p. 692), who has devoted much work to the experimental investigation of early understanding of aspectuality, has recently put it, “crucially, aspectuality is not just an accidental or peripheral but an absolutely fundamental and essential property of beliefs and other propositional attitudes: there is no grasp of what propositional attitudes are without some basic grasp of their aspectuality.” ...

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Is submentalizing part of the genetic tool-kit of human social cognition?

Findings from the developmental investigation of false-belief understanding in preverbal human infants, based on looking time (and other kinds of looking behavior) are relevant to hypotheses about the ontogenetic and the phylogenetic origins of human mindreading capacities. According to Cecilia Heyes (2012), “recent empirical work in comparative psychology, developmental psychology and cognitive neuroscience provides surprisingly little evidence of genetic adaptation, and ample evidence of cultural adaptation.”

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Can teleology explain why very young children help a mistaken agent?

3-year-olds fail to accurately predict where a mistaken agent is likely to look for her toy if they are explicitly asked to do so. However, preverbal infants (who are not asked anything in implicit tasks) have been widely shown to expect a mistaken agent to act in accordance with the content of her false belief (cf. Baillargeon et al., 2010 for review). This is the puzzle of the discrepant developmental findings. ...

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Could preschoolers learn to reason deductively?

Conceptual change or change of conception? One basic issue raised by the study of both the history of science and human ontogenetic cognitive development is that of conceptual change: ...

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Another look at the two-systems model of mindreading

Apperly and Butterfill (2009) and Butterfill and Apperly (2013) have proposed a two-systems model of mindreading. According to this model, humans make use of two distinct psychological systems in ...

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Do we use different tools to mindread a defendant and a goalkeeper?

Previously on cognitionandculture — Last year, Pierre Jacob posted a critical review of the so-called two-systems model of mindreading, according to which humans use two distinct mental tools ...

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Belief ascription in infants and children: the puzzle

In several recent papers on mindreading and belief-ascription, Ian Apperly and his colleagues have reported evidence suggesting that the process whereby human adults ascribe false beliefs to others ...

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The scope of natural pedagogy theory (II): uniquely human?

This is the second post in a series of two installments by Pierre Jacob, dwelling on Gergely and Csibra's work on human communication. In Pierre's first post, we saw that these experiments ...

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The scope of natural pedagogy theory (I): babies

This is the first post in a series of two installments by Pierre Jacob, dwelling on Gergely and Csibra's work on human communication. According to Csibra and Gergely’s (2009) so-called ...

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Pierre Jacob reviews ‘Mothers and Others’, by Sarah B. Hrdy

Review of Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, Mothers and Others, the Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press (422 p.)   Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, a Profes...

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