Abstract: Research on cognitive development over the last 40 years has shown that already within the first few years of life infants have a strikingly rich set of ideas about the world of people. These ideas structure attention and agendize learning pretty much from the outset and then persist in these roles throughout adult life. My work has focused on this “core architecture of thought.” I shall sketch this framework super-briefly, approaching through the umbrella notion of the “AGENT.” AGENT emerges and is used through three levels of representation: the physical object and contact mechanical, the goal actional, and the information attitudal. I will focus on that second level and restrict myself to some recent studies from my lab. We have used various moral judgment tasks with both preschoolers and adults, some of whose results I shall review. Almost any action has many (simultaneous) effects yet our commonsense singles out one effect as having special significance. This is the effect regarded as the “main intention” of the agent’s action; the rest are relegated as “unintended side effects.” First, I present results suggesting that preschoolers already try to make this distinction. I then outline a recent development in act tree theory in which my collaborators and I distinguish cause trees and intention trees. I’ll describe some initial studies of adults that seem to support this move. Finally I return briefly to my larger framework for theory of mind development.
Lunch will be provided.