Processing False Beliefs in Preschool Children and Adults

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Processing False Beliefs in Preschool Children and Adults: Developing a Set of Custom Tasks to Test the Theory of Mind in Neuroimaging and Behavioral Research.

Abstract
The theory of mind (ToM) is the ability to attribute mental states to others and is extremely important for social functioning. It has been widely examined in both behavioral and neuroimaging research, usually with the use of the many versions of the false-belief (FB) task. However, there is still not enough evidence from studies on the neurodevelopmental mechanisms of ToM mostly because of methodological limitations: lack of selectivity, mismatch of experimental and control tasks, and focusing on participants older than 6 years old. In the current study, we attempted to develop a computerized tool for ToM assessment suitable for both behavioral and neuriomaging testing in preschoolers. We designed a version of the classic change-of-location task with custom visuals and three fine-tuned conditions: FB, true-belief, and no-belief (NB). The usability of the task for further application in neurodevelopmental research was tested with three methods: first, behaviorally, with the use of a touch screen on a group of 75 children, followed by a functional MRI (fMRI) study on 13 adults, and a functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) study on 19 preschool children. In line with our expectations, on the behavioral level, our task elicited the all-or-none performance in preschoolers. There was also a progression of performance with age in the FB condition. On the neural level, we observed the activation of structures involved in the ToM brain network in response to our task in both adults and children. The results therefore suggest that our task can be a useful tool for studying ToM development and its neural underpinnings.

PMID: 32351372 [PubMed]

Front Hum Neurosci. 2020;14:119

Authors: Wysocka J, Golec K, Haman M, Wolak T, Kochański B, Pluta A

 

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