Pragmatic effects in the evaluation of false belief reports

Vortragende(r) Dudley, Rachel
Institution(en) ENS
Datum 23.10.2019
Uhrzeit 15:00 Uhr
Ort 4th floor, room 403 (Seminarraum)

(joint work with Salvador Mascarenhas)

A central question in cognitive science revolves around the origins of our human capacity to attribute beliefs to others. For 35 years, developmental psychologists have pursued this question by investigating when and how children understand propositional attitude reports. The orthodox perspective in the resulting literature has been that children lack the conceptual capacity to attribute beliefs to others because they do not “correctly” evaluate attitude reports where the attitude holder holds a belief that differs from reality.

We argue that this orthodox perspective ignores the importance of the semantics and pragmatics of propositional attitude reports. We will present a series of experiments with adults that explore the sources of errors in the evaluation of belief reports. When the nature of the human language faculty and social cognition are taken into consideration, it appears that these “incorrect” false belief evaluations do not have conceptual sources but rather pragmatic ones, ultimately supporting the perspective that children’s understanding of beliefs concepts & propositional attitude verbs is quantitatively but not qualitatively different from adults’ understanding.