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Volume 15 Issue 5 (September 2012), Pages i-ii, 601-730

Neural correlates of belief‐ and desire‐reasoning in 7‐ and 8‐year‐old children: an event‐related potential study (pages 618-632)


Theory of mind requires belief‐ and desire‐understanding. Event‐related brain potential (ERP) research on belief‐ and desire‐reasoning in adults found mid‐frontal activations for both desires and beliefs, and selective right‐posterior activations only for beliefs. Developmentally, children understand desires before beliefs; thus, a critical question concerns whether neural specialization for belief‐reasoning exists in childhood or develops later. Neural activity was recorded as 7‐ and 8‐year‐olds (N = 18) performed the same diverse‐desires, diverse‐beliefs, and physical control tasks used in a previous adult ERP study. Like adults, mid‐frontal scalp activations were found for belief‐ and desire‐reasoning. Moreover, analyses using correct trials alone yielded selective right‐posterior activations for belief‐reasoning. Results suggest developmental links between increasingly accurate understanding of complex mental states and neural specialization supporting this understanding.

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