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Birgit Knudsen defends PhD on March 20
March 14, 2012
After years of experimental research, psychologists still don't know from what age young infants start to understand the actions and behaviour of the people around them. In order to understand infants' cognitive processing, psychologists usually track infants' eye movements while the infants watch an adult performing a task. Knudsen, however, directly focussed on the ways that babies react to information they get from their environment.
Point to new location
In her first study, she investigated if 18- and 24-month-old infants correct an adult who is mistaken about the location of an object (a toy) before the adult begins searching in the wrong (previous) location. Both age groups corrected the adult by pointing to the object's new location when the adult didn't know about the location change and showed intend to find the toy. "This study proves that infants take others' intentions and knowledge states into account when responding to their actions," Knudsen states in her dissertation.
Photo by Igor Jandric.
Another study, with even younger infants, suggested that already by 12 months of age, infants tailor their responses to what others know or do not know, taking the others' emotional attitude (positive or negative) into account. "My studies consistently show that infants use their theory of mind abilities and tailor their communicative acts accordingly," Knudsen says. "Infants are able to communicate their sensitivity to others' beliefs spontaneously and appropriately across different contexts."