J.W. Astington Reading Guide

J.W. Astington Reading Guide - Reading guide The Child's...

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Reading guide: The Child’s Discovery of the Mind , Janet Wilde Astington. (ToM = Theory of Mind) Chapter 1 1. What four elements does Astington include in a ‘belief-desire” psychology? What are two other phrases used to describe these ideas about the mind? 2. Are you convinced by Premack & Woodruff’s data on chimpanzees? What else would you like to know to understand these data better or to critique the study? 3. Be able to describe and give examples of Piaget’s concepts of realism, animism and egocentrism. 4. What 3 methodological criticisms of Piaget’s work does Astington cite? What are advantages and disadvantages of lab experiments vs naturalistic observations relevant to children’s understanding of mind? 5. What are some theoretical questions/controversies about how children come to understand mind? Chapter 2 1. Describe the 3 explanatory stances that Dennett says we can take to explain and predict behavior/action. Under what circumstances is the explanatory stance useful even for machines? 2. What is an Intentional state, in the technical (Brentano) sense? What are three levels of intentionality that we can ascribe to systems? 3. What does it mean to say that “intentional states are characterized by referential opacity” (p 25)? What does it mean to say that intentional states do not entail either truth or existence (p. 26)? 4. Astington says that children may understand representations as entities but not representational activity; how does that relate to the distinction Perner makes between “thinking of” and “thinking that”? 5. What core emotional understanding and self-understanding does Astington think is probably cross-culturally universal? What cross-cultural differences does she describe in emotion and self understanding? Chapter 3 1. Explain what Astington means by saying that infants “have innate predispositions” that tune them into the social world. What is social referencing and how does it reveal infants’ abilities to read others? How are shared attention and turn-taking fundamental skills for communicating with others? 2. What is intentional communication (non-natural meaning)? How does our understanding of others’ intentions allow us to make sense of indirect or non-literal language? 3. What is the distinction that Astington makes between possessing vs. understanding mental states (p. 42)? How does this relate to the controversy on pages 47-48 over whether infants ascribe mental states to others?
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Chapter 4 1. Be able to give examples of “talking about events gone by and things out of sight, solving problems by insight, finding invisibly displaced objects” and explain how these tell us that children can “think about possible states of affairs”.
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