The BPS Research Digest has an intriguing post on a study that found that a mother’s use of verbs like ‘think’, ‘know’ and ‘remember’ when reading picture books to their children predicted the child’s later ability to understand other people’s mental states.
The researchers recorded mothers reading to their 3-6 year-old children, and tested each child’s ‘theory of mind‘ – the ability to infer other people’s beliefs, intentions and mental states.
A year later, the same procedure was repeated with the same mothers and children.
The researchers discovered that the more mothers used cognitive terms when telling the story (e.g. Mother says: “…this boy sees so many people and thinks, ‘I’ll pretend I don’t know what’s going on and I’ll push to the front of the queue'”) the better the child’s later ‘theory of mind’ abilities.
There’s more on the study over at the BPSRD. Importantly, it raises some compelling questions about how early interaction could affect the development of a child’s mental abilities.
Link to BPSRD post.