How conversational input shapes theory of mind development in infancy and early childhood

Slaughter, Virginia and Peterson, Candida C. (2011). How conversational input shapes theory of mind development in infancy and early childhood. In Michael Siegal and Luca Surian (Ed.), Access to language and cognitive development (pp. 3-22) New York, NY United States: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199592722.003.0001

Author Slaughter, Virginia
Peterson, Candida C.
Title of chapter How conversational input shapes theory of mind development in infancy and early childhood
Title of book Access to language and cognitive development
Place of Publication New York, NY United States
Publisher Oxford University Press
Publication Year 2011
Sub-type Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
DOI 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199592722.003.0001
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Year available 2012
ISBN 9780199592722
Editor Michael Siegal
Luca Surian
Chapter number 1
Start page 3
End page 22
Total pages 20
Total chapters 12
Language eng
Formatted Abstract/Summary
Human social cognition is largely driven by the theory of mind (ToM), that is, our ability to think about others in terms of the mental states (feeling, wanting, knowing, etc.) that underlie their behaviour. The effects of language on ToM can be seen in terms of children's exposure to conversations with parents and other partners — conversations that appear to be crucial to children's acquisition of mental state concepts and theory of mind vocabulary. But mental states are notoriously slippery concepts — they are subjective, abstract, and invisible. This chapter reviews correlational and training studies on the link between parents' mental state talk and young children's ability to pass ToM tasks. It reports work that highlights the extent to which some mothers, in particular, tailor their conversation to match and promote their children's knowledge in this domain. It shows that the richness of mothers' talk about mental states during the preschool years is linked to their children's emerging ToM. Specifically, mothers who regularly explain thought processes and how these cause behaviour often have children who are particularly advanced in their responses on stories designed to test ToM. The chapter proposes a clarifying analogy between the ‘motherese’ qualities language used by mothers in facilitating children's language development and mothers' mental state talk as a facilitating factor in acquiring mental state concepts and promoting reasoning about the causal links between mental states and people's actions.
Keyword Mental state concepts
Cognitive understanding
Q-Index Code B1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Book Online

Document type: Book Chapter
Collections: Official 2013 Collection
School of Psychology Publications
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Created: Sun, 14 Apr 2013, 23:20:24 EST by Mrs Alison Pike on behalf of School of Psychology