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Common language and common mind; implications for mentalizing

Paper i proceeding
Författare Erland Hjelmquist
Marek Meristo
Publicerad i Paper presented at the symposium Language, cognition and access to other minds, Symposium at the 9th Nordic Meeting in Neuropsychology, August, 19-22, 2007, Göteborg, Sweden.
Publiceringsår 2007
Publicerad vid Psykologiska institutionen
Språk en
Ämnesord Mentalizing, theory of mind, language access, maternal accuracy, mind-mindedness.
Ämneskategorier Psykologi

Sammanfattning

Learning a language is not only a matter of acquiring a linguistic system. Language learning takes place in social situations and involves activities of a very general kind, such as focusing on the outer and inner worlds, i.e. the topics of communication and conversation. Access to language is in this sense highly related to access to specific experiences. The study of children who have not benefited from early language experience of this kind is therefore of great relevance for understanding both the specific features of development in those cases, but also for the broader analysis of the prerequisites for development in general. Here we report studies of deaf children of deaf parents, who consequently share a common language, sign language, and deaf children of hearing parents, who lack a common language. As expected, deaf children of hearing parents performed low on mentalizing tasks compared to native signers (deaf children of deaf parents). This result supports the importance of the very early experiences during infancy for the development of concepts of mental states, own and others´. However, we also found results indicating the influence of later language experiences at school. In another study of hearing children of hearing parents, we studied the relationship between performance on mentalizing tasks and parents´ accuracy in describing the child´s reaction in a different, socially embarrassing situation. We found that children with parents who were good at describing reactions of their child, also performed better at mentalizing tasks, than did children whose parents were less correct in describing such reactions. Together the results point to the crucial role of language experience in different contexts. The results also demonstrated the at least correlational relationship between an understanding of the child´s mind, common to the parent and the child, and the child´s level of mentalizing.

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