PSYC 352 Final: Core Domains of Understanding

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Published on 7 Sep 2020
At the “everyday/folk” level, domains of knowledge all rely on fundamentally different
theoretical understandings
o Basic psychological phenomena have different “proximal” explanations than basic
biological phenomena i.e. don’t apply psychological constructs to why a plant grows
o Not necessarily scientifically accurate but still important provide us with intuitive ways
of understanding everyday world, conforms with cultural communities that we’re part of
The idea is that children are born ready, evolutionarily prepared to interpret their world in
particular ways i.e. to “carve nature at its joints”
o Psychology, biology, physics -> Core domains of understanding that children come into
world ready to understand, provide foundation for acquiring knowledge
Knowledge that children have/acquire may not map on to what we believe as modern scientists
Theory theory: cognitive development is constructed, maybe in scientific way (as Piaget
o Infants born with particular beliefs which get tested/retested, motivated by equilibration
o Revised, sometimes radically changed in response to new experiences
Central causal understandings end up being totally revised to come up with new
understandings of how world works
Why We Call it a Theory
Not just an understanding of what happens, also why it happens
o Theories allow for not just prediction of phenomenon but also explanations
Within domain, they are interrelated, coherent, causal understandings of why things are the way
they are
Children’s ideas about why things happen proposed to change in a way that is consistent with
processes that scientists go through when have to change theories
Example: Understanding planetary organization
o Used to think earth was at center of universe, astronomer came up
with model of how that would look (conceptual system 1)
o Noticed retrograde for certain planets would move forward, then
looked like they moved back for a bit before moving forward
again -> Wouldn’t make sense if earth at center of universe
o Auxiliary hypothesis included idea of epicycles, saying that as
planet rotate around earth, they spin themselves
o Co-existing models with idea that while planets rotate themselves
as they rotate around earth, maybe earth rotated itself in the middle of the system
o Conceptual system 2 proposed by Copernicus, idea that sun is in the center, earth rotates
around it, moon rotates around earth
Theory of Mind
Theory of mind: understanding that peoples’ actions are caused by their internal mental states,
including beliefs, desires, intentions
o Interesting because mental states aren’t observable
o If you can never see someone’s intentions, why do you assume they’re there?
o Impose causal constructs to understand people’s behaviour
Sometimes called “mind-reading”, capturing that it can be difficult to do
o Everyday process that we use all the time to make sense of what other people are doing
Basic belief/desire psychology
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o Understanding (as grown-ups) that people do
things because they both want to and know how to
Forming an intention to perform an action
Actions can lead to reactions both
in you and others
o Beliefs can inform one another
o Can have multiple desires in any given situation
that can change based on situation
o Beliefs have perceptual mechanisms that lead you to making those beliefs
o Desires caused by basic emotions/physiology
o Reflects underlying understanding of the way the world works
Everything in the chart above isn’t visible (except actions and reactions)
You can only infer that it is there based on the things you’re seeing
Does a chimpanzee have TOM? (Premack & Woodruff, 1978)
o Showed chimps a video and they have to predict the next sequence of events
o In video, lady is jumping and appearing to attempt to grab object just out of reach
Why do we assume she is grabbing the object when it only appears that she is
jumping with her arm up?
In order to see that she wants the object, have to make inference on her unseen
o Chimps conclude she is going to get a ladder to reach the object
Understood her behaviour in terms of causal mechanisms
o Other researchers not convinced
Maybe chimps just know the type of things that come next (natural continuation)
When things out of reach, people will go get something that will help
them reach them
Falls short of mental explanation for why they’re engaging in the phenomenon
False Belief
The “location-change” false belief task (Wimmer & Perner, 1983)
o Sally puts marbles in basked, then she leaves, Ann moves her marbles
o Ask kids when Sally comes home, where is she going to look for the marbles?
o Need to think about what Sally is thinking about
Being able to do this is good evidence you have TOM
The “contents-change” false belief task (Astington & Gopnik, 1988)
o Show kids Crayola box, ask them what they think is inside (they think crayons)
o Then show them the actual contents i.e. Smarties
o Then ask them what other people will think is in the box
Should engage in false belief and say crayons because they don’t know it’s
actually Smarties
Something changes between 3- and 4-year-olds, to develop false belief
o Chance or below is when 3.5 years or young, rapid transition happens all over world
Some things that don’t matter…
o Own beliefs VS other’s beliefs
o Familiar VS unfamiliar others
o Real-life VS dolls
But one thing that does mater… Deception
o “Let’s play a trick on Sally” -> Children do a little better, more than above chance
Factors that affect false belief development
o Executive functioning skills
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