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Executive Function & Theory of Mind. Meg Barrow October 14, 2010. What is executive function?. General term for higher cognitive functions that allow flexible thought & behavior Includes self-control, inhibition, working memory Marshmallow study (Mischel, 1989)

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executive function theory of mind

Executive Function & Theory of Mind

Meg Barrow

October 14, 2010

what is executive function
What is executive function?
  • General term for higher cognitive functions that allow flexible thought & behavior
  • Includes self-control, inhibition, working memory
  • Marshmallow study (Mischel, 1989)
    • Have one now, wait and get two
what is theory of mind
What is Theory of Mind?
  • Ideas from Baillargeon, 2010
  • Definition?
  • When does it develop?
what is theory of mind1
What is Theory of Mind?
  • Ability to think about other people and understand how other people see the world, even if that is different from the way you see it
  • Traditionally/originally tested with elicited-response task, children able to pass around age 4, recent studies have shown much younger children (15 months) pass spontaneous-response task

-Onishi, 2005

relationship between executive function theory of mind
Relationship between Executive Function & Theory of Mind?
  • Does it exist?
  • Logically
    • Theory of mind tasks require inhibition of personal knowledge of the world in order to understand how someone else sees the world
relationship between executive function theory of mind1
Relationship between Executive Function & Theory of Mind?
  • Empirically:
    • Carlson & Moses, 2001
    • Study showed significant relationship between performance on inhibition tasks & theory of mind tasks in 3- and 4-year-olds
relationship between executive function theory of mind2
Relationship between Executive Function & Theory of Mind?
  • Is executive function a resource that gets used up?
    • Baumeister, 1998
    • Study showed executive function depletion in adults through “self-regulation” task – subjects who ate radishes instead of cookies didn’t try to solve impossible puzzles for as long
relationship between execuive function theory of mind
Relationship between Execuive Function & Theory of Mind?

So, depleting executive function in 5-year-olds should cause them to perform worse on theory of mind tasks.

previous study with 5 year olds
Previous study with 5 year olds
  • Depleted executive function by having kids wait in room with a box of toys for 5 minutes
  • Followed by 3 stories, 2 false belief, one control
  • False belief story: two characters, character 1 hides object then leaves, character 2 moves object, ask child to point to where character 1 will look for the object when he returns
  • Measure distance from where child points to where correct answer is (where character 1 left the object)
results
Results
  • Significant difference between depletion & control kids
  • Kids whose executive function was depleted did significantly worse on theory of mind tasks, implying relationship between EF and theory of mind
slide13

So, how does this theory of mind develop? Is it present at a young age? If so, is it the same as the theory of mind seen in older children/adults?Does it change over time?

current study with 18 month olds
Current study with 18 month olds
  • Study to see if there is a correlation between executive function and theory of mind capabilities
  • 3 executive function tasks
  • 3 theory of mind tasks
  • See if there is a relationship between abilities on EF & ToM
executive function tasks
Executive Function Tasks
  • Working Memory Task
    • Hide one object in each of three different containers, child can look in one each time, experimenter changes them around behind a curtain after each trial, see how many times it takes them to find them all
inhibition waiting task
Inhibition (Waiting) Task
  • Waiting
  • Block causes jingle box to make noise
  • Make child wait to get block from under cup for 5, 10, 15, 20 seconds
  • A not B
  • Repetitively hide object one place, then switch it, see where they search for it
theory of mind tasks onishi
Theory of Mind tasks-Onishi
  • Onishi
    • Looking time
    • Object moves from one box to another without actor knowing, measure looking times for where the actor reaches when she returns (expected vs. unexpected)
theory of mind tasks southgate
Theory of Mind Tasks - Southgate

Southgate

Experimenter 1 hides an unnamed object in each of two boxes, leaves, experimenter 2 comes from behind curtain and switches the objects, experimenter 1 comes back, points to a box and asks child to get the “sefo,” see if child goes to other box

thoery of mind tasks buttleman
Thoery of Mind Tasks - Buttleman

Buttleman

Experimenter 1 explores boxes, leaves, Experimenter 2 shows how boxes lock, Experimenter 1 returns with toy, hides toy, leaves, Experimenter 2 switches toys & locks boxes, Experimenter 1 comes back, tries to open box where she left toy, it’s locked, ask child to help, see which box they go to

currently
Currently
  • Right now we’re piloting the Buttleman & Onishi ToM tasks
  • Having trouble getting 18 month olds to actually help in Buttleman task
  • Modified looking time task so each subject sees unexpected and expected trials
discussion
Discussion
  • If there is a correlation between executive function and theory of mind in 18-month-olds, what does that suggest about the development of theory of mind?