Send to

Choose Destination
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

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


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.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center