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Social perspective-taking in deaf children

Research project
Active research
Project period
2014 - ongoing
Project owner
Department of Psychology

Financier
Forte

Short description

Deaf children from hearing families have very limited access to auditory information and are therefore to a large extent excluded from everyday verbal interactions with their family and friends, at least until cochlear implantation. Communicative interactions between hearing parents and deaf children are simplified and abbreviated compared to those which hearing parents have with their hearing children or which deaf parents have with their deaf children.

About the project

Deaf children from hearing families have very limited access to auditory information and are therefore to a large extent excluded from everyday verbal interactions with their family and friends, at least until cochlear implantation. Communicative interactions between hearing parents and deaf children are simplified and abbreviated compared to those which hearing parents have with their hearing children or which deaf parents have with their deaf children. 

The complicated hearing-parent/deaf-child interactions make learning about others' perspectives very challenging for deaf children. Our research suggests that hearing mothers of deaf children are more directive in communication, and that their conversations are more parent-led, compared to those of hearing mothers and their hearing children. Additionally, deaf children seem to have difficulties in interpreting their hearing mothers’ intentions.

Findings from our research with deaf children also show that growing up in hearing families is associated with considerable delays in perspective-taking. These findings extend to profoundly deaf children who have access to a conversational environment through the relatively early usage of cochlear implants. On the other hand, deaf children from deaf families develop age-appropriate social understanding. Our research highlights the importance of language-based communication, since in contrast to deaf children from hearing families, deaf children from deaf families are included in language-based interactions with their parents from birth through a shared sign language.

Publications

Strid, K., Hjelmquist, E., & Meristo, M. (review). Spontaneous and elicited false belief reasoning in deaf children.

Meristo, M. & Strid, K. (2020). Language first: Deaf children from deaf families spontaneously anticipate false beliefs. Journal of Cognition and Development, 21, 622-630. 

Morgan, G., Meristo, M., & Hjelmquist, E. (2017). Environment and language experience in deaf children’s theory of mind development. In M. de Rosnay & V. Slaugther (Eds.) Environmental influences on theory of mind development. Psychology Press. 

Meristo, M., Strid, K., & Hjelmquist, E. (2016). Early conversational environment enables spontaneous belief attribution in deaf children. Cognition, 157, 139-145.

Morgan, G., Meristo, M., Mann, W., Hjelmquist, E., Surian, L., & Siegal, M. (2014). Mental state language and quality of conversational experience in deaf and hearing children. Cognitive Development, 29, 41-49.

More information

The project is carried out within the Gothenburg AMBLE, Infant and Child Laboratory (INCH) at the Department of Psychology.