The self in social cognition

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Introspecting at 4 years

Relating to my work on self-regulation, this research theme seeks to explore the role of self development in children’s capacity to reason about other minds.

Mariel Symeoniduo, PhD candidate

In 2016, PhD student Mariel Symeonidou joined the lab to work on a longitudinal project investigating the links between social cognition and introspection, under the supervision of Dr. Ross, and in collaboration with  theory of mind expert Dr. Martin Doherty, University of East Anglia.

We hypothesise that the capacity to introspect is required for the development of self-regulation, and that these capacities may provide the necessary cognitive prerequisites to represent other minds. If this is the case, then one would expect introspection, and then self-control, to precede theory of mind in ontogeny. All three skills are known to improve between the 3rd and 4th year, and there is some work demonstrating that self-control precedes theory of mind in ontogeny (see Doherty, 2009). However, despite the established suggestion that theory of mind may rely on simulation of one’s own thoughts/actions (simulation theory), the role of meta-cognition has yet to be investigated in this context.  Mariel presented her first findings at the International Convention of Psychological Science, Vienna

This project is also being extended cross-culturally, in collaboration with Dr. Ai Mizokawa, Nagoya University. We have been comparing performance on metacognition, theory of mind and self-control tasks in an age matched sample of Scottish and Japanese children. Despite an advantage in self-control, which robustly relates to theory of mind, previous studies (and our own) show that Japanese children don’t show a theory of mind advantage. We are exploring the idea that variation in metacognition might offer a potential explanation for this.

Mariel will be defending her thesis in summer 2019, and is currently preparing the above data for publication.