Ulf Liszkowski

Hannes Rakoczy
Charlotte Grosse Wiesmann

The last decade provides an impressive body of evidence on implicit Theory of Mind (ToM) suggesting that language and socialisation play a marginal role in understanding others. Different paradigms were established to measure false belief (FB) understanding: (a) violation-of-expectation paradigms (VoEP) measured looking times to an agent trying to retrieve an object, acting either congruently or incongruently with his belief, (b) anticipatory looking (AL) paradigms tested whether infants will look into an area where an agent will approach an object based on his belief, and (c) interaction-based paradigms have tested the actual use of FB understanding in helping tasks. While each task itself might reflect a conceptual ToM capacity, for each local finding there might be alternative simpler explanations. In older children, correlative studies have shown unity of explicit ToM. For early implicit ToM, comparable systematic studies are still lacking. The current study investigates whether early ToM abilities reflect a unitary ToM capacity. 24-month-old infants (n=40) are tested across different FB change-of-location measures. In a modified version of the Southgate et al. 2007 task, we will measure AL, and additionally, looking times to a belief-congruent or incongruent outcome as in VoEP. To extend the validity of looking times, the change in pupil size will be measured (indicator of cognitive effort). For an interaction-based measure, we will replicate the task of Southgate et al. 2010. While deflationary accounts would predict no unity, and hence unrelated performances, the early competence and (to some degree) 2-systems accounts would predict full unity. The current study serves as a basis for a longitudinal study within the research unit “Crossing the borders: The interplay of language, cognition, and the brain in early human development”, which aims at unravelling the relations between, and determinants of ToM, language, socialisation and domain-general attentional capacities.