Understanding Other Minds: Linking Developmental Psychology and Functional Neuroimaging

  • Saxe R
  • Carey S
  • Kanwisher N
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Abstract

Evidence from developmental psychology suggests that understanding other minds constitutes a special domain of cognition with at least two components: an early-developing system for reasoning about goals, perceptions, and emotions, and a later-developing system for representing the contents of beliefs. Neuroimaging reinforces and elaborates upon this view by providing evidence that (a) domain-specific brain regions exist for representing belief contents, (b) these regions are apparently distinct from other regions engaged in reasoning about goals and actions (suggesting that the two developmental stages reflect the emergence of two distinct systems, rather than the elaboration of a single system), and (c) these regions are distinct from brain regions engaged in inhibitory control and in syntactic processing. The clear neural distinction between these processes is evidence that belief attribution is not dependent on either inhibitory control or syntax, but is subserved by a specialized neural system for theory of mind.

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Authors

  • R. Saxe

  • S. Carey

  • N. Kanwisher

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