Chapter

A Two-Systems Theory of Social Cognition

Martin Doherty

in Perception, Causation, and Objectivity

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199692040
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729713 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199692040.003.0017

Series: Consciousness & Self-Consciousness Series

A Two-Systems Theory of Social Cognition

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Developmental research shows that three-year-olds fail explicit theory of mind tasks, yet younger children are sensitive to differences in actors' mental states. Comparably discrepant findings occur with gaze understanding: children cannot judge another's eye-direction until three years but follow gaze from early infancy. Drawing the minimal necessary conclusions from gaze research, I argue that two-year-olds understand social interactions in terms of people's involvements with objects or situations: engagement. This confers considerable social ability without postulating understanding of representational mental states. Subsequent development in gaze understanding co-occurs with explicit theory of mind development, and is discontinuous with earlier development. Four-year-olds develop a novel system for social understanding.

Keywords: joint attention; theory of mind; engagement; attention; gaze following

Chapter.  9449 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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