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Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Babies Start 'Mind Reading' Earlier Than Thought

S.O.T.T: Even babies as young as a year-and-a-half can guess what other people are thinking, new research suggests. The results, published today (Jan. 29) in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society: B, come from a study of children spanning the globe, from rural China to the more remote islands of Fiji. Previously, scientists thought this ability to understand other people's perspectives emerged much later in children. The findings may shed light on the social abilities that differentiate us from our closest living relatives, chimpanzees, said study author H. Clark Barrett, an anthropologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. The study used a form of the false-belief test, one of the few cognitive tasks that young children, but not primates, can do. Humans are "very good at inferring other people's mental states: their emotions, their desires and, in this case, their knowledge," Barrett said. "So it could play an important role in cultural transmission and social learning."

In the classic test of children's understanding called the false-belief task, one person comes into a room and puts an object (such as a pair of scissors) into a hiding place. A second person then comes in and puts the scissors into his pocket, unbeknownst to the first individual. When that first person returns, someone will ask the child, "Where do you think the first person will look for the scissors?" The task is tricky because the children need to have a theory of mind, or an ability to understand other people's perspectives, in this case that of the individual who didn't see the scissors being retrieved by another...read more>>>...

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