PSYCH – Week 17 Online Readings
Week 17: Self and Others:AComparative Perspective
Focus Question: How do we know who we are, and how do we know what we know?
Introduction – Self and Identity
This perspective includes understanding pro- and antisocial behaviours, empathy,
altruism, and theories of moral development. Moral development leads us to question
what we must know about ourselves and about others before we can understand it.
The ability to identify oneself is a necessary precursor to Theory of Mind, and moral
development. Rene Descartes, philosopher, came to the conclusion that “I am, I exist”
must always be true. When infants are born, evidence suggests that their ability to reason
about themselves as separate from those around them is extremely limited. Compared to
what it will eventually become.
Rouge test: Test used to determine development of a sense of self by using a dot of red
colour (rouge) on the nose of the child or animal. The test subject is placed in front of a
mirror and observed to see if recognition occurs
Method used to test for the presence of a sense of self in people and animals. First
used in animal research with chimpanzees, who looked into a mirror. The chimps
treated their reflection at first like they would another chimp.
After extended exposure the chimps began to recognize themselves in the mirror
and used their new perspectives to groom themselves, etc. They knew when their
appearances had changed.
However, not all monkeys could understand the mirror images.
Human first pass the rouge test between ages of 1524 months. Children 30
months can choose photos of themselves from photos of difference children.
Mirror recognition has only been demonstrated in a handful of animals.
Developing Self Identity
2 years – children refer to themselves verbally, by name or pronouns
34 – describe personal characteristics verbally and are positive in nature.
8 years – selfconcept: an individual’s perception of self, including knowledge,
feelings and ideas about oneself. It is used as a basis for how we describe
ourselves. Also have autobiographical memory (memory for specific experiences;
influences development of selfconcept. Also children make social comparisons
(evaluating one’s abilities and opinions by comparing with others to see how we
Imaginary audience: Adolescent thought process in which they believe they are
constantly on a stage and everyone is watching them, attending to their every
move and mistake.
This perception can intensify feelings of selfconsciousness and questions about
selfconcept. Influences on the SelfConcept
Several factors, including culture.
Different cultures place different importance on the individual (individualist
cultures) and the group (collectivist cultures). People from collectivist cultures
tend to give statements focused on group membership, “I am a Muslim” for
example, while individualists said “I am honest.”
Different cultural parenting styles can affect the time at which a child gains the
ability to pass a rouge test.
Once language develops, children’s sense of self also grows.
How does our sense of self and others affect our interpersonal behaviour?
Theory of Mind (ToM)
Expectations concerning how experience affects mental states, especially those of
another. It is a reasoning process that attempts to predict how others might think or
behave based on their motives, needs, and goals.
The ability to reason about what other people might know or believe and how
those beliefs and knowledge will relate to their actions.
Developing Theory of Mind and FalseBelief Problems
Prior to age four children are not able to solve the sorts of problems that require
ToM. 3 yr olds will attribute knowledge to others that they have themselves
Falsebelief problems are a set of tests used to determine children’s ToM and
o Container test: Falsebelief test that asks children to reason what is in a
container based on what is outside the container, or what was in the
container, and adjust as they learn the truth.
o For example, having a smartie box with pencils inside, the child will then
assume another person would think it was pencils inside; that or they
claim they knew all along.
o Displacement test: Falsebelief task like the Sally Anne task that explores
how children reason through a change in location from two different
o Theory of mind seems to become behaviourably accessible at age 34 in
There are some developmental precursors to Theory of Mind, such
as intersubjectivity, cognitive capacity and perhaps also some level
of selfidentity combined with the ability to process information
that is not focused on self.
Precursors to Theory of Mind
Intersubjectivity: the ability to share a focus of attention with others. (Socio
cultural theory) Only minutes after birth, infants are capable of intersubjectivity in
a limited sense, as they will imitate the facial expressions of those around them. 3
8 months Infant habituation: The simplest form of learning in which a given stimulus is presented
repeatedly. The child learns not to respond to an unimportant event that occurs repeatedly.
They learn to understand the goals of others. This research proves that infants attribute
goals to animate objects, not inanimate ones.
12 months of age – infants explore their understanding of goals by considering the
situation of the other person when deducing their goals. They take into account
the goal, actions and situation of other people when trying to make sense of their
18 months – by this point if an actor unsuccessfully preforms an action, they will
replicate the correct action, showing they have learned.
23 year olds have trouble maintaining lies, meaning their consistency is terrible!
Executive functioning involves the capacity to control impulses, plan complex
actions, foresee consequences and use working memory.
Perseveration: Inability to switch strategies as new information is presented: the
initial strategy might work, but when a change is called for, the strategy remains
the same. Often occurs in young children and individuals with frontal lobe
damage. EX: Colour game and shape game.
Prefrontal cortex is responsible for executive function.
The executive function and Theory of Mind develop independently.
Learning Theory of Mind
Practice develops ToM
Children with older siblings develop ToM faster, as they have a rich social
When parents ask their children to think about the feelings of the victims of their
actions, those children develop ToM at an earlier age.
Theories about ToM
One theory is that ToM develops out of the same cluster of genetic and epigenetic
processes as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ASD is a lifelong disorder of thought that
can manifest in behaviour as early as two years of age. Autism is characterized by
difficulty understanding social situations and forming relationships, and often by
perseverative behaviours and high sensitivity to sound, light, or touch. Many symptoms
of ASD are behaviours existing within the typical population and may have the same
cognitive underpinnings, but present themselves on the extreme end of the typical
spectrum. Because of the variety of behaviours associated with ASD and the fact they
appear to some extent in the typical population, it is difficult to pin down the exact
biological causes of ASD.
Some theorists propose that autism is what occurs when a child lacks Theory of Mind.
This belief is supported not only because of the social difficulties encountered by people
with ASD, but also because people with ASD typically perform poorly on falsebelief
Complexity and Brain Development –More Theories Some theorists believe that Theory of Mind exists within the brain in a pre
specified way and that it follows a fairly predictable maturational timeline. They suggest
that a genetic factor or an environmental factor during prenatal or early development may
trigger (or, in the case of ASD, fail to trigger) the development of ToM.
Areas of the brain that are active during performance of falsebelief tasks include
the right temporoparietal junction and parts of the prefrontal cortex. However, there does
not appear to be a straightforward, onetoone relationship between a brain area and ToM,
or a single brain area or gene implicated in the development of ASD.
Given the complex nature of ToM tasks and the complex cognitive and
behavioural profile of persons with ASD, it is hardly surprisi