Context and Content Lectures 2017
Josef Perner, University of Salzburg
Coreferential Files and Theory of Mind
I will discuss the importance of coreferential files—multiple representations of a single object—in our thinking and in children’s cognitive development. Our mental files model ascertains that up to about 4 years children cannot represent identity by linking coreferential files. This inability shows up in a variety of domains: alternative naming (that the rabbit is also an animal), identity statements (“Sue’s mother is the teacher”), recognition of a person as the same as encountered before, and understanding belief (that Max mistakenly thinks his chocolate is still in its original place) a central concept of our theory of mind. Our mental files model can also illuminate the relationship between theory of mind development and mutual exclusivity phenomena and children’s prolonged difficulty with the intensionality of belief.
Brain imaging studies also track common brain regions activated by these different tasks in adults.
Our data and theoretical analyses speak to general issues of when different files are deployed for an object, how objects are tracked over time in perception and conversation, how identity and perspective differences are mentally represented.