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.

  • Burnside, K., Ruel, A., Azar, N., & Poulin-Dubois, D. (2017). Implicit false belief across the lifespan: Non-replication of an anticipatory looking task. Cognitive Development. Advanced online publication. doi:10.1016/j.cogdev.2017.08.006. Full Text
  • Burnside, K., Wright, K., & Poulin-Dubois, D. (2017). Social motivation and implicit theory of mind in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism Research, 10, 1834–1844. doi:1834-1844. doi:10.1002/aur.1836. Full Text
  • Crivello, C., & Poulin-Dubois, D. (2017). Infants' false belief understanding: A non-replication of the helping task. Cognitive Development. Advanced online publication. doi:10.1016/j.cogdev.2017.10.003 Full Text
  • Poulin-Dubois, D., & Yott, J. (2017). Probing the depth of infants' theory of mind: Disunity in performance across paradigms. Developmental Science. Advanced online publication, e12600. doi:10.1111/desc.12600. Full Text
  • Yott, J., & Poulin-Dubois, D. (2016). Are infants’ theory of mind abilities well integrated? Implicit understanding of intentions, desires, and beliefs. Journal of Cognition and Development17(5), 683–698. doi:10.1080/15248372.2015.1086771. Full Text
  • Poulin-Dubois, D & Yott, J. (2014). Fonctions exécutives et théorie de l’esprit chez le jeune enfant: une relation réciproque? Psychologie Francaise, 59, 59–69. doi:10.1016/j.psfr.2013.11.002. Full Text
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