The Center for Language Science presents

"Children's Attitude Problems"
with Jeffrey L. Lidz, Professor, Department of Linguistics, University of Maryland

Thursday, January 17, 2013
2:00-3:30 p.m.
Social and Behavioral Science Gateway, Room 1517

This talk will investigate the connection between children’s linguistic acquisition of mental state (‘attitude’) verbs and their mindreading development. Children’s acquisition of attitude verbs like 'think' or 'want' has been used as a window into their understanding of other people’s minds. An extensive number of acquisition studies show that young children display difficulty with verbs like 'think' but not 'want'. This result is often interpreted as reflecting an asymmetry in conceptual development: while the desire concept is acquired early, children fail to grasp the concept of belief until their fourth birthday. This talk presents a linguistic explanation for these acquisition facts, which derives the asymmetry and children’s mistakes from pragmatic factors, rather than a deficiency in semantic or conceptual knowledge. Our experimental results suggest that children's conceptual and semantic knowledge for attitudes is in place early on, and can be unmasked in the right pragmatic conditions.

For further information, please contact Sandy Cushman, or 949-824-3344.

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