Publications of Kampis, D

Three cognitive mechanisms for knowledge tracking

We welcome Phillips et al.’s proposal to separate the understanding of ‘knowledge’ from that of ‘beliefs’. We argue that this distinction is best specified at the level of the cognitive mechanisms. Three distinct mechanisms are discussed: tagging one’s own representations with those who share the same reality; representing others’ representations (metarepresenting knowledge); and attributing dispositions to provide useful information.

A two-lab direct replication attempt of Southgate, Senju, & Csibra (2007)

The study by Southgate, V., Senju, A., and Csibra, G. (Southgate et al., 2007) has been widely cited as evidence for the ability of false-belief attribution in young children. Recent replication attempts of this paradigm have yielded mixed results: several studies were unable to replicate the original finding, raising doubts about the suitability of the paradigm to assess non-verbal action prediction and Theory of Mind. In a preregistered collaborative study including two of the original authors, we tested 160 24- to 26-month-olds across two locations following the original stimuli, procedure, and analyses as closely as possible. We found no evidence for action anticipation: only about half of the infants correctly anticipated the protagonist’s actions when action prediction did not require taking into account the agent’s beliefs. In addition, even those who appeared to anticipate failed to do so when a false belief was involved. These findings indicate that the paradigm of Southgate et al. (2007) cannot reliably elicit anticipatory action prediction and is unsuitable for testing false belief understanding in 2-year-olds.

Neural signatures for sustaining object representations attributed to others in preverbal human infants

A major feat of social beings is to encode what their conspecifics see, know or believe. While various nonhuman animals show precursors of these abilities, humans perform uniquely sophisticated inferences about other people’s mental states. However, it is still unclear how these possibly human-specific capacities develop and whether preverbal infants, similarly to adults form representations of other agents’ mental states, specifically metarepresentations. We explored the neuro-cognitive bases of 8-month-olds’ ability to encode the world from another person’s perspective, using gamma-band EEG activity over the temporal lobes, an established neural signature for sustained object representation after occlusion. We observed such gamma-band activity when an object was occluded from the infants’ perspective, as well as when it was occluded only from the other person (Study 1), and also when subsequently the object disappeared but the person falsely believed the object to be present (Study 2). These findings suggest that the cognitive systems involved in representing the world from infants’ own perspective are also recruited for encoding others’ beliefs. Such results point to an early developing, powerful apparatus suitable to deal with multiple concurrent representations; and suggest that infants can have a metarepresentational understanding of other minds even before the onset of language.