Off-campus UNL users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your NU ID and password. When you are done browsing please remember to return to this page and log out.

Non-UNL users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Emergence of theory of mind

Caitlin M Hudac, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Preference for social engagement at birth indicates that social abilities emerge early and have a deeply seated biological basis (Grossmann & Johnson, 2007). Complex social cognition involving the attribution of mental states, beliefs, and desires is called Theory of Mind (ToM). Recent work by Kovács, Téglás, & Endress (2010) suggests that by 7-months infants are capable of ToM, previously thought to be immature until at least 3 years of age. Yet, much remains unknown about how infants integrate and process complex social information. This dissertation breaks new ground in investigating early-emerging ToM mechanisms during infancy (i.e, between 6-10 months). Two aims are addressed: (1) To chart changes in the functional patterns of brain activity and looking behavior associated with the emergence of ToM abilities; (2) To create a computational model addressing theoretical accounts of ToM mechanisms. Infants were enrolled between 6-7.5 months of age in a longitudinal research study. After interactive training to learn object names, infants completed a laboratory session in which event-related potentials and eye movements were acquired while infants observed ToM vignettes. Infants returned after 8 weeks and repeated the procedures to assess the maturation of brain-behavior relationships over time. A series of dynamic neural field models were generated to describe ongoing maturational changes of ToM mechanisms. Finally, a quantitative analysis evaluated how brain-behavior data fit the simulation models of ToM emergence across the second 6-months of life.

Subject Area

Neurosciences|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Hudac, Caitlin M, "Emergence of theory of mind" (2014). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3626333.