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Forget babbling and toddling – mindreading is babies’ most incredible skill

Attempting to ‘mindread’, or figure out what another person might be thinking, is something that most adults do instinctively, and it’s part of a learning process that begins in the first few months of life. For instance, at a year old, most babies can decipher that a person glaring at a piece of food is contemplating eating it, and can even predict the path they’re likely to take to the morsel. But, as Jennifer Nagel, a philosophy professor at the University of Toronto, lays out in this animation, forming a deeper sense of what another person might (rightly or wrongly) believe in a given situation is a more complex process that develops throughout childhood. And, as Nagel explores, whether babies innately understand that other people have beliefs, or whether they’re simply recognising patterns when they appear to understand other minds, is still subject to controversy among philosophers and developmental psychologists alike.

25 October 2021

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