The performance of 93 children aged 3 and 4 years on a battery of different counterfactual tasks was assessed. Three measures: short causal chains, location change counterfactual conditionals, and false syllogisms—but not a fourth, long causal chains—were correlated, even after controlling for age and receptive vocabulary. Children's performance on our counterfactual thinking measure was predicted by receptive vocabulary ability and inhibitory control. The role that domain general executive functions may play in 3- to 4-year olds' counterfactual thinking development is discussed.
This paper sets out to give sufficient detail to the notion of mental simulation to allow an appraisal of its contribution to ‘mindreading’ in the context of the ‘false-belief tasks’ used in developmental psychology. We first describe the reasoning strategy of ‘modified derivation’, which supports counterfactual reasoning. We then give an analysis of the logical structure of the standard false-belief tasks. We then show how modified derivation can be used in a hybrid strategy for mindreading in these tasks. We then (...) formulate the hypothesis that children become able (around the age of 4 years) to pass these tasks when they acquire the counterfactual reasoning ability required in this strategy. We find this to be consistent with various empirical findings. We then discuss the implications for the theory/simulation debate, meta-representation and pretence. (shrink)
What do human beings use conditional reasoning for? A psychological consequence of counterfactual conditional reasoning is emotional experience, in particular, regret and relief. Adults’ thoughts about what might have been influence their evaluations of reality. We discuss recent psychological experiments that chart the relationship between children’s ability to engage in conditional reasoning and their experience of counterfactual emotions. Relative to conditional reasoning, counterfactual emotions are late developing. This suggests that children need not only competence in conditional reasoning, but also to (...) engage in this thinking spontaneously. Developments in domain general cognitive processing (the executive functions) allow children to develop from conditional reasoning to reasoning with counterfactual content and, eventually, to experiencing counterfactual emotions. (shrink)
Byrne implies that working memory development underpins children's ability to represent counterfactuals as possibilities at 3 to 4 years of age. Recent findings suggest that (1) developments in the ability to consider alternatives to reality in children of this age are underpinned by improvements in inhibitory control, not working memory, and (2) children do not develop an understanding of counterfactuals as possibilities until mid-childhood.
We defend the Simulation Theory of Mind against a challenge from the Theory Theory of Mind. The challenge is that while Simulation Theory can account for Theory of Mind errors, it cannot account for their systematic nature. There are Theory of Mind errors seen in social psychological research with adults where persons are either overly generous or overly cynical in how rational they expect others to be. There are also Theory of Mind errors observable in developmental data drawn from Maxi-type (...) false belief tests. We provide novel responses to several examples showing that Simulation Theory can answer these challenges. (shrink)
Across a series of four experiments with 3- to 4-year-olds we demonstrate how cognitive mechanisms supporting noun learning extend to the mapping of actions to objects. In Experiment 1 the demonstration of a novel action led children to select a novel, rather than a familiar object. In Experiment 2 children exhibited long-term retention of novel action-object mappings and extended these actions to other category members. In Experiment 3 we showed that children formed an accurate sensorimotor record of the novel action. (...) In Experiment 4 we demonstrate limits on the types of actions mapped to novel objects. Overall these data suggest that certain aspects of noun mapping share common processing with action mapping and support a domain-general account of word learning. (shrink)