Young children’s Social Cognition taken to the Lab: Experimental Paradigms, Findings and what comes next
The first years of life are crucial in shaping the mind and the human brain. This talk presents findings from three research projects looking at three aspects of social cognition that develop in the first years of life. The first project, re-assesses young children’s mental state inferences looking for ‘on-line’ measures of the ‘mind-reading’ processes. The second project looks at young children’s early understanding of conditional agreements and its implications for social exchange. Findings from the third project indicate how the higher order control the child’s action and thought may have its onset in joint attention interactions at the end of infancy. All the processes involved in these socio-cognitive competencies are species-specific, independent of formal instruction, involve ‘on-line’ inferential processes and underlie communication and interpersonal exchange. All these processes are essential tools of the adult’s social life. Here it is argued that in order to fully understand how they operate in adult life, it is necessary to bridge the gap on how these brain and cognitive functions develop in the early years.