Nonverbal components of Theory of Mind in typical andatypical development

TitleNonverbal components of Theory of Mind in typical andatypical development
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsKampis, D., D. Fogd, and Ágnes Melinda Kovács
Journal titleInfant Behavior and Development
Issuein press

To successfully navigate the human social world one needs to realize that behavior is guidedby mental states such as goals and beliefs. Humans are highly proficient in using mentalstates to explain and predict their conspecific’s behavior, which enables adjusting one’sown behavior in online social interactions. Whereas according to recent studies even younginfants seem to integrate others’ beliefs into their own behavior, it is unclear what processescontribute to such competencies and how they may develop. Here we analyze a set of pos-sible nonverbal components of theory of mind that may be involved in taking into accountothers’ mental states, and discuss findings from typical and atypical development. To trackan agent’s belief one needs to (i) pay attention to agents that might be potential beliefholders, and identify their focus of attention and their potential belief contents; (ii) keeptrack of their different experiences and their consequent beliefs, and (iii) to make behav-ioral predictions based on such beliefs. If an individual fails to predict an agent’s behaviordepending on the agent’s beliefs, this may be due to a problem at any stage in the aboveprocesses. An analysis of the possible nonverbal processes contributing to belief trackingand their functioning in typical and atypical development aims to provide new insights intothe possible mechanisms that make human social interactions uniquely rich.

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