Cognitive control explains the mutual transfer between dimensional change card sorting and first-order false belief understanding: A computational modeling study on transfer of skills

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Biologically Inspired Cognitive Architectures, ISSN: 2212-683X, Vol: 20, Page: 10-20

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Burcu Arslan; Rineke Verbrugge; Niels Taatgen
Elsevier BV
Psychology; Neuroscience; Computer Science
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While most 3-year-olds fail both in the false belief task of theory of mind and Dimensional Change Card Sorting task of cognitive control, most 4-year-olds are able to pass these tasks. Different theories have been constructed to explain this co-development. To investigate the direction of the developmental relationship between false belief reasoning and cognitive control, Kloo and Perner (2003) trained 3-year-olds on the false belief task in one condition and on the Dimensional Change Card Sorting task in another condition. They found that there is a mutual transfer between the two tasks, meaning that training children with the Dimensional Change Card Sorting task with feedback significantly improved children’s performance on the false belief task and vice versa. In this study, we aim to provide an explanation for the underlying mechanisms of this mutual transfer by constructing computational cognitive models. In contrast to the previous theories, our models show that the common element in the two tasks is two competing strategies, only one of which leads to a correct answer. Providing children with explicit feedback trains them to use a strategy of control instead of using a simpler reactive strategy. Therefore, we propose that children start to pass the false belief and cognitive control tasks once they learn to be flexible in their behavior depending on the current goal.