Neural signatures for sustaining object representations attributed to others in preverbal human infants

Dora Kampis, Eugenio Parise, Gergely Csibra, Ágnes Melinda Kovács

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A major feat of social beings is to encode what their conspecifics see, know or believe. While various non-human animals show precursors of these abilities, humans perform uniquely sophisticated inferences about other people's mental states. However, it is still unclear how these possibly human-specific capacities develop and whether preverbal infants, similarly to adults, form representations of other agents' mental states, specifically metarepresentations. We explored the neurocognitive bases of eight-month-olds' ability to encode the world from another person's perspective, using gamma-band electroencephalographic activity over the temporal lobes, an established neural signature for sustained object representation after occlusion. We observed such gamma-band activity when an object was occluded from the infants' perspective, as well as when it was occluded only from the other person (study 1), and also when subsequently the object disappeared, but the person falsely believed the object to be present (study 2). These findings suggest that the cognitive systems involved in representing the world from infants' own perspective are also recruited for encoding others' beliefs. Such results point to an early-developing, powerful apparatus suitable to deal with multiple concurrent representations, and suggest that infants can have a metarepresentational understanding of other minds even before the onset of language.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20151683
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume282
Issue number1819
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 11 2015

Keywords

  • Infant cognitive development
  • Metarepresentation
  • Object representation
  • Social cognition
  • Theory of mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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