Dr Charlotte Grosse WiesmannResearch group leader
The overarching goal of the research group Milestones of Early Cognitive Development is to understand how typically human cognition develops in early childhood and how it is implemented in the maturing brain.
As humans, we do not only think about what is the case, but we can also consider what might be the case, what will be the case in the future, or what people believe to be the case. To understand this, we need to hold several different representations of the world in mind and understand which of these refer to the actual world, which merely represent a possibility, someone's belief about the world, or refer to the past or the future. From reasoning about time over considering different possibilities (for example, when we prepare for different possible outcomes in the future) to understanding how other people see the world, many of our daily cognitive processes rely on reasoning about different representations of the world and understanding that these representations need not correspond to the actual world. Being able to think about the world in terms of such abstract representations may be one of the pillars of our uniquely human capacity for abstract reasoning.
Our research aims to understand how reasoning about representations develops in early childhood and how such parallel representations are implemented in the human brain.
We investigate these questions with a combination of behavioral and neuroscientific methods in early childhood and in adults including eye-tracking, EEG, and MRI.
Available PhD projects:
- Theory of Mind: Project 1 targets our capacity to understand how our representations of other people's beliefs and perspective on the world are implemented in the brain, in parallel to our own representation of the world, and how this changes in early childhood as children begin to reason about other people's beliefs and unique perspective (referred to as Theory of Mind).
- Reasoning about possibilities: Project 2 targets our capacity to reason about different possibilities, how such parallel versions of the world are represented in the brain, and how this changes as children begin to reason about possibilities in mature ways.
- Temporal reasoning: Project 3 targets our capacity to reason about time, how different time points are represented in the brain, and how this changes in the course of early childhood.
- Potential further projects could target other cognitive domains for which these capacities may be relevant, as well as comparative approaches across different cultures to understand how culture contributes to shaping the development of these capacities.