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Conclusions and Questions

the question

This course was based on a simple question. The question is,
How do humans first come to know about---and to knowingly manipulate---objects, causes, words, numbers, colours, actions and minds?
At the outset we know nothing, or not very much. (Like little Wy here.) Sometime later we do know some things. How does the transition occur?
Have we made any progress in answering this question?

In the first year of life

humans already possess a range of sophisticated abilities

which do not involve, and are isolated from, knowledge.

Therefore the transition must be a process of rediscovery.

As this is not something infants could achive alone, rediscovery must be a joint action.

This creates a special, as yet barely explored role for joint action in development. Coming to know your first facts about particular objects, minds and actions is a process of rediscovery, which is a joint action.
To more fully specify goal-tracking we need a theory that specifies both the models and the processes involved in goal-tracking.

1. models (How are things in the domain related from the point of view of a 3/6/9-month-old?)

2. processes (What links the model to the infant?)

puzzles matter

domainevidence for knowledge in infancyevidence against knowledge
colourcategories used in learning labels & functionsfailure to use colour as a dimension in ‘same as’ judgements
physical objectspatterns of dishabituation and anticipatory lookingunreflected in planned action (may influence online control)
syntaxanticipatory looking[as adults]
mindsreflected in anticipatory looking, communication, &cnot reflected in judgements about action, desire, ...

Core Knowledge

The leading answer is that involves a ‘third type’ of representation, something distinct from perception and knowledge

‘there is a third type of conceptual structure,
dubbed “core knowledge” ...
that differs systematically from both
sensory/perceptual representation[s] ... and ... knowledge.’

Carey, 2009 p. 10

I have questioned this ...
I think the Crude Picture of the Mind is surprisingly useful in getting a fix on developmental discrepancies, particularly compared to theories which postulate either knowledge (incorrect predictions) or core knowledge (no predictions).
Contra the view suggested by Carey, it seems that, at least in the domain of physical objects, there is no need to postulate ‘core knowledge’ as something distinct from the epistemic, motoric and perceptual

Crude Picture of the Mind

  • epistemic
    (knowledge states)
  • broadly motoric
    (motor representations of outcomes and affordances)
  • broadly perceptual
    (visual, tactual, ... representations; object indexes ...)
  • metacognitive feelings
    (connect the motoric and perceptual to knowledge)
  • I also think the importance of metacognitive feelings may have been overlooked.
    When it comes to explaining how different bits of the mind interact, or how knowledge emerges in development, we need metacognitive feelings because, aside from effects on behaviour and control of attention, \textbf{it is only metacognitive feelings that connect the motoric and perceptual to knowledge}.
    Metacognitive feelings have been quite widely neglected in philosophy and developmental psychology. They are a means by which cognitive processes enable perceivers to acquire dispositions to form beliefs about objects’ properties which are reliably true. Metacognitive feelings provide a low-cost but efficient bridge between non-conscious cognitive processes and conscious reasoning.

‘if you want to describe what is going on in the head of the child when it has a few words which it utters in appropriate situations, you will fail for lack of the right sort of words of your own.

‘We have many vocabularies for describing nature when we regard it as mindless, and we have a mentalistic vocabulary for describing thought and intentional action; what we lack is a way of describing what is in between

(Davidson 1999, p. 11)

I love this: Davidson says we will fail. So encouraging. But why will we fail?
Is he suggesting the issue is merely terminological? Not quite ...
we do know what is in between

What is in between:

object indexes

motor representations

metacognitive feelings


One moral: If we want to understand the developing mind, it is often useful to think about forms of adult cognition which are more primitive than knowledge and belief.
... But how might appealing to these capacities enable us to explain the developmental emergence of knowledge? We are still very far from an explanation!

Minimal approaches

to mindreading, joint action

and referential communication

do not presuppose

and may therefore explain

knowledge knowledge.

development as (re)discovery

Joint action transforms which abilities core knowledge makes possible, and it is reflection on these abilities and the experiences they case that is the ultimate source of our knowledge.
Well, maybe there is a big idea after all.
(I'm hesitant to mention this because it's not well established and, anyway, you should find your own big idea. But ...)
Through joint action you are able to rediscover what is in some sense already encoded in your core knowledge.
That, anyway, is one idea about how humans come to know about objects, causes, minds and the rest.
core knowledge of syntax
ability to communicate with language
core knowledge of mind
reflection on this
knowledge knowledge


So what does a Dual Process Theory of Mindreading claim? The core claim is just this:

Dual Process Theory (core part)

Two (or more) X-tracking processes are distinct:
the conditions which influence whether they occur,
and which outputs they generate,
do not completely overlap.

\textbf{You might say, this is a schematic claim, one totally lacking substance.} You’d be right: and that’s exactly the point.
A key feature of this Dual Process Theory is its \textbf{theoretical modesty}: it involves no a priori committments concerning the particular characteristics of the processes.

Dual Processes and Development

There are two, or more, processes which involve different models of the domain.

One of these processes first appears early in development, the other later.

The model involved in the early-developing processes does not change over development.

The model involved in the other processes does.