Prior to this age, children are unable to solve the sorts of problems that require ToM. Describe the precursors to theory of mind. While true Theory of Mind appears to become behaviourally accessible between the ages of three and four in most children, there do appear to be some developmental precursors to this ability. The most basic form of these is intersubjectivity, the ability to share a focus of attention with others. Only minutes after birth, infants are capable of intersubjectivity in a limited sense, as they will imitate the facial expressions of those around them. Between the ages of three and six months, infants will begin to follow the gaze of others. This ability is also seen in non-human primates; infant macaque monkeys, for example, can also imitate the facial expressions of those around them. In habituation experiments, researchers demonstrate that infants are capable of understanding the goals of others. In these experiments, infants view a stage upon which two objects rest. Over several repeated trials, a hand reaches from one side of the stage to grasp an object from that pair, the same object in each trial. When infants are shown these types of events, they will watch intently until they begin to make sense of what is occurring and then they begin to watch less, a process called infant habituation (the simplest form of learning in which a given stimulus is presented repeatedly. The child learns not to respond to an unimportant event that occurs repeatedly). Infants attribute goals to animate but not inanimate objects. Understanding goals is a prime example of ToM, in which people (infants) understand differences in the motives, goals, or desires of others. Another development that occurs not long before the arrival of the belief (and false- belief) understanding is lying. Many children will begin to lie around three years of age, and it is considered part of normal cognitive development.
Describe the factors that contribute to the development of children’s theory of mind (siblings, executive functioning). Several factors affect the development of Theory of Mind; one is executive functioning. Executive functioning includes the capacity to control impulses, plan complex actions, foresee consequences, and use working memory. The difficulty you experienced naming colours in the Stroop task was because you read, more often than you name, colours. It is challenging to suppress typical ways of doing things in favour of others. Difficulty switching from one way of doing things to another is common in young children. Perseveration is the inability to disengage from an activity and is common in people with frontal lobe damage and in young children. A test of perseveration asks children to sort cards according to either colour (e.g., red and blue) or shape (e.g., triangle and circle, regardless of colour). After a few rounds of sorting by either shape or colour, the experimenter asks the child to switch to sorting by the other dimension. When three-year-olds are tested in this way, they
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