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Dev Sci. 2017 Sep;20(5). doi: 10.1111/desc.12447. Epub 2016 Aug 29.

Action mechanisms for social cognition: behavioral and neural correlates of developing Theory of Mind.

Author information

1
Harvard Medical School, Boston Children's Hospital, USA.
2
Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology, University of Maryland, USA.

Abstract

Many psychological theories posit foundational links between two fundamental constructs: (1) our ability to produce, perceive, and represent action; and (2) our ability to understand the meaning and motivation behind the action (i.e. Theory of Mind; ToM). This position is contentious, however, and long-standing competing theories of social-cognitive development debate roles for basic action-processing in ToM. Developmental research is key to investigating these hypotheses, but whether individual differences in neural and behavioral measures of motor action relate to social-cognitive development is unknown. We examined 3- to 5-year-old children's (N = 26) EEG mu-desynchronization during production of object-directed action, and explored associations between mu-desynchronization and children's behavioral motor skills, behavioral action-representation abilities, and behavioral ToM. For children with high (but not low) mu-desynchronization, motor skill related to action-representation abilities, and action-representation mediated relations between motor skill and ToM. Results demonstrate novel foundational links between action-processing and ToM, suggesting that basic motor action may be a key mechanism for social-cognitive development, thus shedding light on the origins and emergence of higher social cognition.

PMID:
27573916
PMCID:
PMC5332397
DOI:
10.1111/desc.12447
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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