Pierre Jacob’s blog

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

Could mindshaping be the bedrock of human social cognition?

The uniformity that unites us in communication and belief is a uniformity of resultant patterns overlying a chaotic subjective diversity of connections between words and experience. Uniformity comes

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If teleology is the answer, what was the question?

Josef Perner is one of the leading developmental psychologists of mindreading (or mental state attribution). His contribution to the subject, including his influential (1991) book, has been huge. It started back in 1983, when he and Heinz Wimmer reported the very first study of false-belief attribution in human childhood: Maxi and Maxi’s mother (a pair of puppets) store some desirable object (e.g. a chocolate bar) in a blue cupboard for later use and Maxi leaves the scene. While Maxi is away, Maxi’s mother removes the chocolate bar, uses some of it to bake a cake, places it into a green cupboard and leaves. Maxi comes back and wants some chocolate. Participants are asked the prediction question: “Where will Maxi look for his chocolate?”

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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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