The Development of Mentalizing and Emotion in Human Children

Part of the The Science of the Mind book series (The Science of the Mind)


For human infants, agents—defined as other humans—are the fundamental units of their social world. Agents provide very special stimuli to infants. Researchers of object–person differentiation have proposed a set of rules that infants probably use during their interaction with people as opposed to objects.

This chapter reviews investigations into how children understand and detect both human and nonhuman agents and communicate with them, starting with a definition of mentalizing and summary of the course of its development. A study is presented on infant imitation of a robot’s action and a false-belief task with robots, proposing a new research domain called “developmental cybernetics,” which studies the interaction between children and robots (Itakura et al., Infancy 13:519–532, 2008). It has been predicted that in ordinary twenty-first-century households, robotics technology will be as common as refrigerators and dishwashers (Asada and Kuniyoshi, Robot intelligence, Iwanami Shoten, Tokyo, 2006). Therefore, exploring developmental cybernetics is important. Finally, two more studies from the perspective of cognitive neuroscience are presented, with a discussion on the usefulness of the neurocognitive approach in understanding the development of mentalizing, alongside two studies concerned with this issue.


Video Clip Overt Behavior Robot Condition Uncued Object Positive Slow Wave 
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Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shoji Itakura
    • 1
  • Yusuke Moriguchi
    • 2
  • Tomoyo Morita
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Graduate School of LettersKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  2. 2.Joetsu University of EducationJoetsuJapan
  3. 3.National Institute for Physiological ScienceOkazakiJapan

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