Discovering Mind: Development of Mentalizing in Human Children

  • Shoji Itakura
  • Mako Okanda
  • Yusuke Moriguchi


For human infants, agents—other humans—are the fundamental units of their social world. Agents are very special stimuli to infants. Researchers of objectperson differentiation have proposed a set of rules that infants may use during their interaction with people as opposed to objects. For example, (1990) suggested that infants may perceive people as perceptual events that are both self-propelled and goal-directed objects. In such case, adults also perceive people as agents with intention. (1995, p. 60) described an infant’s concept of human as follows: “Three aspects of human interactions that are accessible in principle to young infants are contingency (humans react to one another), reciprocity (humans respond in kind to one to anther’s actions), and communication (humans supply one another with information).” Spelke et al. showed that infants may interpreter an object’s movement with these three principles and the “principle of contact.” To explain the contact principle, they used the habituation procedure and showed that infants tended to assume that an object, if it moves, should have been set in motion by the push from another object (or person). On the other hand, there is no need to apply an external force for a social agent to move. They demonstrated that this kind of perception of agency has appeared in 7-month-olds. Agents are not simply physical objects with new properties added to them. On the contrary, they are entities of an animacy that can move on their own, breath, eat, drink, look, and engage in actions with objects or interact with other agents (Gomez 2004).


Social Partner Social Contingency Perseverative Error Aware Condition Adult Model 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adamson LB, Frick JE (2003) The still face: a history of a shared experimental paradigm. Infancy 4:451–473CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Asada M, Kuniyoshi Y (2006) Robot intelligence vol 4. Iwanami Shoten, TokyoGoogle Scholar
  3. Baldwin DA, Baird JA, Saylor MM, Clark MA (2001) Infants parse dynamie action. Child Dev 72:708–717PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barr R, Hayne H (2000) Age-related changes in imitation: implications for memory development. In: Rovee-Collier C, Lipsitt LP, Hayne H (eds) Progress in infancy research. Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, pp 21–67Google Scholar
  5. Basili JN (1976) Temporal and spatial contingencies in the perception of social events. J Pers Soc Psychol 33:680–685CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bauer PJ, Wiebe SA, Waters JM, Bangston SK (2001) Re-exposure breeds recall: effects of experience on 9-month-olds’ ordered recall. J Exp Child Psychol 80:174–200PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Behne T, Carpenter M, Call J, Tomasello M (2005) Unwilling versus unable: infants’ understanding of intentional action. Dev Psychol 41:328–337PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bellagamba F, Tomasello M (1999) Re-enacting intended acts: comparing 12 and 18-month-olds. Infant Behav Dev 22:277–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bigelow AE, DeCoste C (2003) Sensitivity to social contingency from mothers and strangers in 2−, 4−, and 6-month-old infants. Infancy 4:111–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Blair C (2002) School readiness: integrating cognition and emotion in a neurobiological conceptualization of children’s functioning at school entry. Am Psychol 57:111–127PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brooks PJ, Hanauer JB, Padowska B, Rosman H (2003) The role of selective attention in preschoolers’ rule use in a novel dimensional card sort. Cognit Dev 18:195–210Google Scholar
  12. Brooks R, Meltzoff AN (2002) The importance of eyes: how infants interpret adult looking behavior. Dev Psychol 38:958–966PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Carlson SM (2005) Developmentally sensitive measures of executive function in preschool children. Dev Neuropsychol 28:595–616PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Carlson SM, Moses LJ, Breton C (2002) How specific is the relation between executive function and theory of mind? Contributions of inhibitory control and working memory. Infant Child Dev 11:73–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cowley SJ, Kanda T (2005) Friendly machines: interaction oriented robots today and tomorrow. Alternation 12:79–106Google Scholar
  16. Carpenter M, Nagell K, Tomasello M (1998) Social cognition, joint attention, and communicative competence from 9 to 15 months of age. Monogr Soc Res Child Dev 63(4): serial no. 255Google Scholar
  17. Csibra G (2003) Teleological and referential understanding of action in infancy. Philos Trans R Soc Lond Ser B Biol Sci 358:447–458CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dittrich WH, Lea SEG (1994) Visual perception of intentional motion. Perception 23:253–268PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Eisenberg N, Fabes RA, Murphy M, Maszk P, Smith M, Karbon M (1995) The role of emotionality and regulation in children’s social functioning. Child Dev 66: 1239–1261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Farroni T, Massaccesi S, Pividori D, Johnson MH (2004) Gaze following in newborns. Infaney 5:39–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gergely G, Csibra G (2004a) Teleological reasoning in infancy: the naïve theory of rational action. Trends Cognit Sci 7:287–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gergely G, Csibra G (2004b) The social construction of the cultural mind: Imitative learning as a mechanism of human pedagogy. Interaction Studies: Social Behaviour and Communication in Biological and Artificial Systems. Special Issue: Making Minds 11(6):463–481Google Scholar
  23. Gergely G, Nadasdy Z, Csibra G, Biro S (1995) Taking the intentional stance at 12 months of age. Cognition 56:165–193PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gomez JC (2004) Apes, monkeys, children, and the growth of mind. Harvard University Press, HarvardGoogle Scholar
  25. Graham SA, Nilsen ES, Nayer SL (2007) Following the intentional eye: the role of gaze cues in early word learning. In: Flom R, Lee K, Muir D (eds) Ontogeny of gaze processing. Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJGoogle Scholar
  26. Hains SMJ, Muir DW (1996) Effect of stimulus contingency in infant-adult interactions. Infant Behav Dev 19:49–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Heider F, Simmer S (1944). Ah experimental study of apparent behavior Am J Psychol 57:243–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hughes C (1998) Executive function in preschoolers: links with theory of mind and verbal ability. Br J Dev Psychol 16:233–253Google Scholar
  29. Hughes C, Dunn J, White A (1998). Trick or treat? Uneven understanding of mind and emotion and executive dysfunction in “hard to manage” preschoolers. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 39:981–994PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ishiguro H, Miyashita T (2005) Communication robot: the technology for development of the robots interacting with humans. Ohmsha, TokyoGoogle Scholar
  31. Itakura S, Ishida H, Kanda T, Lee K, Ishiguro H (in press) How to build an intentional android: infants’ imitation of a robot’s goal-directed actions. InfancyGoogle Scholar
  32. Johnson MH, Morton J (1991) Biology and cognitive development: the case of face recognition. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  33. Johnson SC (2003) Detecting agents. Philos Trans R Soc Lond Ser B Biol Sci 358:549–559CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Johnson SC, Booth A, O’Hearn K (2001) Inferring the goals of nonhuman agent. Cognit Dev 16:637–656CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Johnson SC, Slaughter V, Carey S (1998) Whose gaze will infants follow? Features that elicit gaze-following in 12-month-olds. Dev Sci 1:233–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kloo D, Perner J (2003) Training transfer between card sorting and false belief understanding: helping children apply conflicting descriptions. Child Dev 74:1823–1839PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kloo D, Perner J (2005) Disentangling dimensions in the dimensional change card-sorting task. Dev Sci 8:44–56PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kochanska G, Murray KT, Jacques TY, Koenig AL, Vandegeest KA (1996) Inhibitory control in young children and its role in emerging internalization. Child Dev 67: 490–507PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kochanska G, Murray KT, Harlan ET (2000) Effortful control in early childhood: Contonuity and change, antecedents, and implications for social development. Dev Psychol 36:220–232PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kojima H (2005) Children-robot interaction: from interaction to cognition. Presented at the ESF research conference on brain development and cognition in human infants, “From action to cognition,” Acquafredda di Maratea, ItalyGoogle Scholar
  41. Kuhlmeier VWK, Bloom P (2003) Attribution of dispositional states by 12-month-olds. Psychol Sci 14:402–408PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Luo Y, Baillargeon R (2005) Can a self-propelled box have a goal? Psychological reasoning in 5-month-old infants. Psychol Sci 16:601–608PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. MacDorman KF, Ishiguro H (2006a) The uncanny advantage of using androids in social and cognitive science research. Interact Stud 7(3):297–337CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. MacDorman KF, Ishiguro H (2006b) Opening Pandora’s uncanny box: Reply to commentaries on “The uncanny advantage of using androids in social and cognitive science research” Interact Stud 7(3):361–368CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Meltzoff AN (1995) Understanding the intentions of others; Re-enactment of intended acts. Dev Psychol 31:838–850CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Meltzoff AN (1999) Understanding the intentions of others: Re-enactment of intended acts. Dev Psychol 31:838–850CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Meltzoff AN (2005) Imitation and other minds: the “Like Me” hypothesis. In: Hurley S, Cater N (eds) Perspectives on imitation: from neuroscience to social science, vol 2. MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 55–77Google Scholar
  48. Meltzoff AN, Moore MK (1977) Imitation of facial and manual gestures by human neonates. Science 198:75–78PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Meltzoff AN, Moore MK (1997) Explaining facial imitation: a theoretical model. Early Dev Parent 6:179–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Moriguchi Y, Lee K, Itakura S (2007) Social transmission of disinhibition in young children. Dev Sci 10:481–491PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Muir DW, Nadel J (1998) Infant social perception. In: Slater A (ed) Perceptual development: visual, auditory, and speech perception in infancy. Psychology Press, London, pp 247–285Google Scholar
  52. Munakata Y, Yeris BE (2001) All together now: when dissociations between knowledge and action disappear. Psychol Sci 12:335–337PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Murray L, Trevarthen C (1985) Emotional regulation of interactions between two-montholds and their mothers. In: Field TM, Fox NA (eds) Social perception in infants. Ablex, Norwood, NJ, pp 177–197Google Scholar
  54. Nadel J, Carchon I, Kervella C, Marcelli D, Reserbat-Plantey D (1999) Expectancies for social contingency in 2-month-olds. Dev Sci 2:164–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Okanda M, Itakura S (2008) One-month old infants’ sensitivity to social contingency from mothers and strangers. Psychol Rep 102:293–298PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Perner J (1998) The meta-intentional nature of executive function and theory of mind. In: Carruthers P, Boucher J (eds) Language and thought. Cambridge University Press. CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  57. Perner J, Lang B, Kloo D (2002) Theory of mind and self-control: more than a common problem of inhibition. Child Dev 73:752–767PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Phillips AT, Wellman HM (2005) Infants’ understanding of object-directed action. Cognition 98(2):137–155PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Poulin-Dubois D (1999) Infant’s distinction between animate and inanimate objects: the origin of naïve psychology. In: Rochat P (ed) Early social cognition. Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, pp 257–280Google Scholar
  60. Premack D (1990) The infant’s theory of mind. Cognition 36:1–16PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Quinn PC, Slater A (2003) Pace perception at birth and beyond. In: Pascalis O, Slater A (eds) The development of face processing in infancy and early childhood: current perspectives. Nova, Hauppauge, NY, pp 3–11Google Scholar
  62. Rochat P, Neisser U, Marian V (1998) Are young infants sensitive to interpersonal contingency? Infant Behav Dev 21:355–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Sabbagh M, Xu F, Carlson S, Moses L, Lee K (2006) The development of executive functioning and theory-of-mind: a comparison of Chinese and U.S. preschoolers. Psychol Sci 17:74–81PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Shimizu YA, Johnson SC (2004) Infants’ attribution of a goal to a morphologically unfamiliar agent. Dev Sci 7:425–430PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Spelke ES, Phillips A, Woodward AL (1995) Infants’ knowledge of object motion and human action. In: Sperber D, Premack D, Premack AJ (eds) Causal cognition: A multidisciplinary debate. Oxford Clarendon Press, pp 45–78Google Scholar
  66. Striano T (2004) Direction of regard and the still-face effect in the first year: does intention matter? Child Dev 75:468–479PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Towse JN, Redbond J, Houston-Price CMT, Cook S (2000) Understanding the dimensional change card sort: perspectives from task success and failure. Cognit Dev 15:347–365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Tronick E, Als H, Adamson L, Wise S, Brazelton T (1978) The infant’s response to entrapment between contradictory messages in face-to-face interaction. J Am Acad Child Psychiatry 17:1–13PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Tsuji A, Itakura S (2003) Attribution of dispositional states in infancy. In: Proceedings of Information Processing Society, Kansai Branch (in Japanese), pp 127–128Google Scholar
  70. Woodward AL (1998) Infants selectively encode the goal object of an actor’s reach. Cognition 69:1–34PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Zelazo PD, Frye D, Rapus T (1996) An age-related dissociation between knowing rules and using them. Cognit Dev 11:37–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shoji Itakura
    • 1
  • Mako Okanda
    • 2
  • Yusuke Moriguchi
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychology Graduate School of LettersKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  2. 2.Kyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  3. 3.University of TokyoTokyoJapan

Personalised recommendations