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Developmental Origins of a Theory of Mind

Children’s understanding of their own and others’ mind (theory of mind) involves the explanation and prediction of human behaviour on the basis of internal states such as perceptions, desires, emotions and beliefs. Recognizing and inferring the mental states of others is a critical skill in our social lives. The development of these abilities has been the focus of a large body of research over the last two decades. In our laboratory, we examine the precursors to mental state attribution in infancy. More specifically, we are interested in the nature of belief and emotion understanding in 14- to 18-month-olds and how internal state language develops in the same sequence as theory of mind skills. We are also interested in the link between the development of prosocial behaviors (e.g., empathy) and theory of mind. Some of our studies on theory of mind are conducted in collaboration with colleagues in Germany and Italy.

  • Poulin-Dubois, D., Goldman, E. J., Meltzer, A. & Psaradellis, E. (2023). Discontinuity from implicit to explicit theory of mind from infancy to preschool age. Cognitive Development, 65, 101273.
  • Dutemple, E., Hakimi, H & Poulin-Dubois, D. (2023). Who knows best? Studying the link between children's monitoring and control skills, theory of mind, and selective social learning. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 227. 105572. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2022.105572
  • Crivello, C., Grossman, S. & Poulin-Dubois, D. (2021). Specifying links between infants' theory of mind, associative learning, and selective trust. Infancy, 26(5), 664-685.
  • Poulin-Dubois, D., Azar, N., Elkaim, B. & Burnside, K. (2020). Testing the stability of theory of mind: A longitudinal approach. PLoS One, 15(11), e0241721. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0241721
  • Poulin-Dubois, D., Hastings, P. D., Chiarella, S. S., Geangu, E., Hauf, P., Ruel, A. & Johnson, A. (2018). The eyes know it: Toddlers' visual scanning of sad faces in predicted by their theory of mind skills. PLoS One, 13(12), 1-17. doi:10.1371/journal.prone.0208524
  • Poulin-Dubois, D. & Yott, J. (2018). Probing the depth of infants' theory of mind: Disunity in performance across paradigms. Developmetal Science, 21(4), e12600. doi:10.1111/desc.12600
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