Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Excessive Charity

This is funny. Three year old children assume that their knowledge is shared by everyone else (including God). Apparently, this has "led some researchers to conclude that children start out with an understanding of what a god-like, all-knowing perspective is like, and that for several years they mistakenly apply this to other people."

New research suggests that they also assume that everyone else (again, including God) shares their ignorance. I guess it's finally safe to conclude that children start out with an understanding of what their own perspective is like, and that for several years they mistakenly apply this to other people...

5 comments:

  1. Good grief I'm amazed that this is new research... I thought we were reasonably convinced that young children (unlike some adults of other species I might add) don't have a theory of mind yet. If that is the case then the belief they understand the perspective of God is clearly absurd.

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  2. most research about that sort of thing is like "wow we are amazed that age group X seems to be smarter than a carrot!
    So while we might say "age group X seems to have theory of mind" it may not be very valid to say "age group Y doesn't have a theory of mind" because it could just be that it exists we just haven't seen it yet because it takes a slightly different form. note over at the splintered mind where they are talking about conciousness of babies. Eric suggests they may be MORE concious than us.

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  3. G. - note that a "theory of mind" is just an intellectual capacity: the ability to reason about others' beliefs and desires (as distinct from your own). So whether they're "more conscious" seems an entirely separate issue.

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  4. hmm ok I see how ive not communicated properly. part of erics post was about how doctors assumed babies were not concious and thus they operated on them without attempts to reduce pain.

    It seems like a similar sort of assumption as the assumption regarding animals not feeling pain and in this case children lacking theory of mind.

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  5. It is a fair point Genius, sometimes the most obvious of hypothesis still need research I remember a time at a conference where I saw a paper by a psychologist working with people who wanted to donate their organ to a stranger while they were alive. The general presumption of the psychologist was that these people must be mad in some fashion, so he tested them every which way. The conclusion: People who want to donate their organ while living to complete strangers have a highly developed sense of altruism...

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