Introduction Theoryof Mind (ToM) is peoples’ understanding others’ mind (Peterson, Wellman, & Slaughter, 2012). This is called as theory, because itis used to make predictions about other people’s attributions and it is notdirectly observable (Premack & Woodruff, 1978) . This is verycrucial for human beings to be able to understand each other and to be able topredict other people’s behaviour, because of that, theory of mind (ToM) haveexcited the attention of researchers for years (Yott & Poulin-Dubois, 2016). There aredifferent mental states of theory of mind, however the testing of false belieftunderstanding is seen as the litmus test for it (Poulin-Dubois & Yott, 2017). Asconcept theory of mind, false belief can be assessed as people do things in thedirection of what they consider, even if they are not true (Slaughter, 2015). In traditionaltesting of this task, children get a story where the person in the story missesinformation, but children know.
So the person in the story has false belief.After that, children are asked about the belief of person in the story withquestions such as: what the person thinks or where this person will look for anobject to get explicit response (Grosse Wiesmann, Friederici, Singer, & Steinbeis,2017). A lot of studies, which are done only thistask, showed that children can pass that task after 4 years old; however beforefour years old, they have difficulties to pass that task and they fail (Gopnik & Slaughter, 1991; Pellicano & Rhodes,2003; Wellman, Cross, & Watson, 2001). However, newlydone studies showed that there is an important developmental change from age of3 to 4; while 3 years old children fail at explicit false belief task, they canpass implicit false belief task (Grosse Wiesmann et al., 2017). Theoryof Mind (ToM) concept is very important that has studied for years. However; findingsof many studies arouse theory of mind researchers’ curiosity and lead them tofocus on mostly theory of mind development in infancy (Heyes, 2014; Slaughter, 2015). In this proposal, development of understandingof others’ mind in infancy and; comparisons of typically developing infants andatypically developing infants in terms of false belief understanding is takeninto consideration.
Literature Review Theory of mind ininfants Withthese new research findings, many studies have focused on development of theoryof mind in infancy. Poulin-Dubois and Yott (2017) stated in their paper thatthe traditional knowledge about development of theory of mind after age 4 wasshaken with Clements and Perner’s research in 1994. They found that eye movementsof 2 years 11 months old children and older children indicated that they canunderstand the false belief. With these results, a lot of researchers began tofocus on theory of mind concept from age 2 to infancy. Falsetask understanding of theory of mind in typically developing infants AfterClement and Perner’s (1994) results, studies began to take into considerationtheory of mind testing in infancy term. Different mental states of theory ofmind was taken into consideration by researchers like early reasoning aboutdesires among 14 and 18 month old infant (Repacholi & Gopnik, 1997); imitation ofintentional actions among 14 and 18 month (Olineck & Poulin-Dubois, 2007); psychologicalreasoning in 18-month-old infant (Song, Onishi, Baillargeon, & Fisher, 2008). These studiesshowed that even though infants could not explain verbally, they were showingdifferent attitudes during testing of different mental states. In addition tothese studies, because false task understanding is seen as litmus test oftheory of mind (Poulin-Dubois & Yott, 2017), to examinefalse belief from infants’ perspectivewill be more helpful to understand this developmental process.
In this researchproposal, false belief understanding of infants is studied. Firstof all, because infants cannot talk, researchers examined the infants lookingbehaviour thorough using some paradigms which helps to understand their falsebelief understanding. In 2005 Onishi andBaillargeon developed a novel nonverbal task to examine15-month-old infants’ability.
In their task, they wanted infants to guess an actors’ behaviour onthe true or false belief about a toy’s hiding place. Findings of that studyshowed that infants use mental state to predict others’ behaviour. Surian, Caldi and Sperber (2007) assessedinfants looking by showing them animations and they stated the view thatinfants have an incipient meta representational ability, which provides them toattribute beliefs to agents. He et al. (2011) used violation of expectationchange-of-location and unexpected- content tasks to see false beliefunderstanding in 2,5-years-old. They also supported the false beliefunderstanding in toddlers.
Eventhough there are significant behaviour change in infants, while their implicitfalse belief understanding is testing; there is a hot debate among researchersabout whether these studies really give information about false beliefunderstanding of infant or it is just a part of cognitive development ininfancy (Slaughter, 2015). In the studies,different age groups and different ways were used to clarify this issue. Forinstance, Kovacs,Teglas and Endress (2017) took 7-month-old infants (which areyounger than other studies) as participants to their studies. They also foundthat 7-month-old age infant took into consideration of other people’s belief. Yott and Poulin-Dubois (2012) used behaviouralrules for 18 month-old-infants; Buttelmann, Carpenter and Tomasello (2009 )usedhelping behaviour paradigm for 18-month-old infants;Southgate et.
al (2010)examined infants’ tracking the status of a communicator’s epistemic state;Scoot, Baillargeon, Song and Leslie (2010) showed a search paradigm to 18-monthold infants. In 2007, Southgate, Senju and Csibra measured infants’ lookingbehviour by using eye tracker. They examined action anticipation of 2 year-oldinfants.
In all these studies, even situations and methods are different,infants faced up a false belief testing. Findings of all studies showed thatinfants look differently or attribute differently, when actor when the actorattributed by basing on a false belief. Asa result, after the awareness of children can understand false belief taskbefore age 4, many research were done on the development of false beliefunderstanding of typically developing infants. Actually, the studies that arementioned above include typically developing children as participants. In thesestudies, different paradigms and different methods were used while testingfalse belief understanding in infancy term. Studies’ results investigated that infantsunderstand false belief of agents. False taskunderstanding of theory of mind in atypically developing infants Mostof the studies that are mentioned above were done to assess false beliefunderstanding of typically developing infants. When the literature wasreviewed, it was seen that even there are studies on false belief task ofatypically developing children (Luca Surian & Leslie, 1999); according toour knowledge, there is not any study that specifically focus on false beliefunderstanding of atypically developing infants (Kampis, Fogd, & Kovács, 2017).
Whenthe literature is reviewed, it was observed that in 1999 Surian and Lesliecompared the competence and performance of autistics and normal 3-year-oldchildren in terms of competence and performance in false belief understanding. Theyused a standard prediction of action task (Sally/Anne story). In this study,normally developing 3 years old children were able to understand theprotagonist’s false belief. Autistics children attended the 3,5-year-old level performancein this study and they failed standard prediction task.
Even this studyincluded 3 and 3,5 years old children, it compared the false beliefunderstanding among typically and atypically developing children. In anotherstudy also theory of mind abilities of young siblings of children were studied.Participants were 24 siblings of children with autism and 24 siblings of typicallydeveloping children at age of 4.
6. There was not any significant differencebetween groups; however, differences were found within group results betweenTom ability and receptive language. Inthe literature, it could not be found a(Clements & Perner, 1994) study aboutfalse belief understanding among atypically developing infants. However, a studywas found which compares typically developing infants and atypically developinginfants in terms of gaze following, not false belief understanding (Thorup, Nyström, Gredebäck, Bölte, & Falck-Ytter,2016). They used eye tracking to assess gazefollowing.
They found that infants at familial risk for ASD followed gaze lesslikely when adult’s eyes were giving directional information than when botheyes and head of the adult were giving information. Actually, that study gaveknowledge about there is a statistically significant different looking behaviourbetween typically and atypically developing infants. Asa result, here is not any study related with comparisons of typically andatypically developing infants in terms of false belief understanding. Studiesthat were done among 3 or 4 years found differences between groups and some ofthem found in within group differences.
An also one study that was done withinfants showed that gaze following of the infants was different for bothgroups. Comparisons oftypically developing infants and atypically developing infants in terms offalse belief understanding Theoryof mind (ToM) is a core system in people’s social cognition (Poulin-Dubois & Yott, 2017). Problems in theory of mind can be symptom ofatypically development, which is known as a core deficit of autism (Shaked, Gamliel, & Yirmiya, 2006). Early prediction of this deficit make easierto early intervention. Some studies discovered that implicit false beliefunderstanding of that theory can be gained from before age 3 to 7 month old (Buttelmann, Carpenter, & Tomasello, 2009;Clements & Perner, 1994; He, Bolz, & Baillargeon, 2011; Kristine, 2005;Melinda, Téglás, & Endress, 2017; Sarret & Rommelfanger, 2015; VictoriaSouthgate, Chevallier, & Csibra, 2010; Luca Surian & Leslie, 1999; Yott& Poulin-Dubois, 2012, 2016). However, if it is any deficit in gaining thatability in infancy can give information about later development. Evena lot of studies demonstrated that infant could understand false belief of others;there is still hot debate about whether these findings showing the reality ofinfants’ understanding of others’ mind (Poulin-Dubois & Yott, 2017; Slaughter, 2015). Assessment of infants’ false beliefunderstanding bases on limited, nonverbal facts and these restricted facts causethese debates (De Bruin & Newen, 2012; Grosse Wiesmann et al.
,2017; Scott, Richman, & Baillargeon, 2015). Implicit understanding occurs in the brain of infants, itis really based on restricted facts. However one of the best ways to clarifythese doubts will compare typically and atypically developing infants in termsof false belief understanding, which has never done before. As mentioned above, deficits in understandingothers is core symptom of autism and it gives information about socialcognition of people. Comparisons of typically and atypically developinginfants’ false belief understanding help to get more knowledge aboutunderstanding of others in infancy.
Inthe lights of all these findings and literature, the purpose of this researchis compare false belief understanding of typically and atypically developinginfants to get more information about their social cognition. MethodParticipants Participantsof the study will be a total of one hundred 9-month-old infants. Fifty infantswill be high-risk infants (HR group) who have at least one older sibling with anautism spectrum disorder (ASD). Other fifty infants will be infants who havelow-risk. Low-risk infants (LR group) are infants who do not have any personwith ASD in their family history or at least one typically developing oldersibling. Participantswill be taken from Child Development Unit of University of Kent in Canterbury,England.
6-9 and 12-month-old both typically and atypically developing infantscome to that unit for infant testing. These infants can be included to thisstudy. Beforethe study is applied to infants, parents will be informed about study and allethical issues related with study’s process and confidentiality. A consent formwill be taken from parents. After permission is taken by parents, infants willbe included.
To recruit more infants announcements will bepresented in study’s website and university’s website. In addition to that,schools, special working places related with autism spectrum disorder andclinical centres will be contacted to reach these parents. Participants’ older siblingwith ASD has to be diagnosed as formally by a trained person. Diagnosticcriteria must be based on American Psychiatric Association (2000) and World Health Organization(1992). Aninformation form will be given to parents. In this form, information about socioeconomiclevel of the family (by looking at family income), education level of parents,developmental history of the infants will be taken. The questions related withdevelopmental history of infants will be about whether they have anydevelopmental disorder, whether they have any impairments and whether they getany medical interventions.
With this information, infants who have samecharacteristics will be included in this study. Materials Thematerials that were used by Yott and Poulin-Dubois (2016) will be used in thisstudy. They used a stage-like apparatus (107 cm x 61 cm x 211 cm).
There is awindow (86 cm x 91 cm) in which the experimenter comes up. The window is farfrom 80 cm from the bottom of the front panel. There is a flat surface on thewindow. On the top of the surface there is a small place for a digital camerato record looking behaviour of infants. The infants will observe experimenterapproximately from 110 cm from display.
Infants can observe on a high chair or ontheir parent’s lap. During the experiments, all parents are requested to besilent. There is a white curtain to cover the window. It is used by the experimenter.During testing, infants’ looking behaviours are coded live by a secondexperimenter.Belief tasksmaterials Yottand Poulin-Dubois (2016) presented both a red cup or yellow duck for belieftask.
In this study, the read cup will be used. The red cup (7.5 in diameter,10.5 cm high), a yellow box and a green box (14 cm x 14 cm x 14 cm) arematerials of that task.
There is an opening side of the each box on the cupside. It was covered with a fabric fringe. Each box has a rectangular openingunderneath. That opening place lets the experimenter to use to change place ofthe cup from one box to another.
This is done thorough a magnet that is putunder the cup and under the stage. Designand Procedure Aroom of the Child Development Unit of University of Kent will be designedaccording to belief task. When parents and infants come to unit, firstlyparents will fill consent form and information document. After that, belieftask will be applied to infants. Measures of falsebelief understanding Inthis study, to measure false belief understanding, Yott and Poulin-Dubois'(2016) belief tasks will be used. They adapted the belief tasks from Onishi andBaillargeon’s (2005) study. In this adaptation they measured both true andfalse tasks non-verbally.
These tasks are based on violation of expectationparadigm. Belief tasks include three familiarization trials, and these trialsare followed by a false-belief induction trial and false-belief test trial andthen true-belief induction trial followed by a true-belief test trial. Infamiliarization testing, the experimenter takes the cup (which is betweenboxes) and puts it one of the box and stays like this for a while. If theinfant looks away 10 seconds or looks the trial 2 seconds and looks away 10seconds trial finishes. It is repeated second and third time.
Infalse belief task, the cup is moved to another box and experimenter does nothave any idea about this changing; however experimenter opens the box with cup.In true-belief task, the cup is left in first box (which both infants andexperimenter observe) and the experimenter opens that box (because theexperimenter sees cup in this box before). Coding andReliability Lookingtimes of infants in each trial will be coded by two observers. If infants donot observe the still phase, they are not taken to analysis. To measureinterrater reliability, Pearson product-moment correlations will be found andcompared. Key Predictions Inthis study, it is expected that there is a statistically significant differencebetween typically developing infants and atypically developing infants whenthey are compared in terms of their false belief understanding.
According totheory of mind, human begins have social cognition and they understand otherpeoples’ mind and state, if they are developing typically. However, if thereare deficits in theory of mind, that can be because of atypical development.Because of that, statistically significant difference between typicallydeveloping infants and atypically developing infants can be expected liketypically developing infants have more false belief understanding thanatypically developing infants. Data Analysis and Power Calculations Theanalysis of data will be done by using Statistical Package for the SocialSciences Software (SPSS).
Group mean differences of typically and atypicallydeveloping infants will be analysed by using independent t-test.