Publications by authors named "Tamsin C German"

15 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

The Embodied God: Core Intuitions About Person Physicality Coexist and Interfere With Acquired Christian Beliefs About God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus.

Cogn Sci 2019 09;43(9):e12784

Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Why are disembodied extraordinary beings like gods and spirits prevalent in past and present theologies? Under the intuitive Cartesian dualism hypothesis, this is because it is natural to conceptualize of minds as separate from bodies; under the counterintuitiveness hypothesis, this is because beliefs in minds without bodies are unnatural-such beliefs violate core knowledge intuitions about person physicality and consequently have a social transmission advantage. We report on a critical test of these contrasting hypotheses. Prior research found that among adult Christian religious adherents, intuitions about person psychology coexist and interfere with theological conceptualizations of God (e.g., infallibility). Here, we use a sentence verification paradigm where participants are asked to evaluate as true or false statements on which core knowledge intuitions about person physicality and psychology and Christian theology about God are inconsistent (true on one and false on the other) versus consistent (both true or both false). We find, as predicted by the counterintuitiveness hypothesis but not the Cartesian dualism hypothesis, that Christian religious adherents show worse performance (lower accuracy and slower response time) on statements where Christian theological doctrines about God's physicality (e.g., incorporeality, omnipresence) conflict with intuitions about person physicality. We find these effects for other extraordinary beings in Christianity-the Holy Spirit and Jesus-but not for an ordinary being (priest). We conclude that it is unintuitive to conceptualize extraordinary beings as disembodied, and that this, rather than inherent Cartesian dualism, may explain the prevalence of beliefs in such beings.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cogs.12784DOI Listing
September 2019

The Use of Eye Tracking as a Biomarker of Treatment Outcome in a Pilot Randomized Clinical Trial for Young Children with Autism.

Autism Res 2019 05 20;12(5):779-793. Epub 2019 Mar 20.

Department of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California.

There is a pressing need for objective, quantifiable outcome measures in intervention trials for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The current study investigated the use of eye tracking as a biomarker of treatment response in the context of a pilot randomized clinical trial of treatment for young children with ASD. Participants included 28 children with ASD, aged 18-48 months, who were randomized to one of two conditions: Pivotal Response Intervention for Social Motivation (PRISM) or community treatment as usual (TAU). Eye-tracking and behavioral assessment of developmental functioning were administered at Time 1 (prior to randomization) and at Time 2 (after 6 months of intervention). Two well-established eye-tracking paradigms were used to measure social attention: social preference and face scanning. As a context for understanding relationships between social attention and developmental ability, we first examined how scanning patterns at Time 1 were associated with concurrent developmental functioning and compared to those of 23 age-matched typically developing (TD) children. Changes in scanning patterns from Time 1 to Time 2 were then compared between PRISM and TAU groups and associated with behavioral change over time. Results showed that the social preference paradigm differentiated children with ASD from TD children. In addition, attention during face scanning was associated with language and adaptive communication skills at Time 1 and change in language skills from Time 1 to Time 2. These findings highlight the importance of examining targeted biomarkers that measure unique aspects of child functioning and that are well-matched to proposed mechanisms of change. Autism Research 2019, 12: 779-793. © 2019 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc. LAY SUMMARY: Biomarkers have the potential to provide important information about how and why early interventions effect positive change for young children with ASD. The current study suggests that eye-tracking measures of social attention can be used to track change in specific areas of development, such as language, and points to the need for targeted eye-tracking paradigms designed to measure specific behavioral changes. Such biomarkers could inform the development of optimal, individualized, and adaptive interventions for young children with ASD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/aur.2093DOI Listing
May 2019

A Pilot Randomized Clinical Trial of an Enhanced Pivotal Response Treatment Approach for Young Children with Autism: The PRISM Model.

J Autism Dev Disord 2019 Jun;49(6):2358-2373

University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, USA.

The symptoms of autism spectrum disorder are conceptualized to alter the quality of parent-children interactions, exposure to social learning exchanges, and ultimately the course of child development. There is evidence that modifying the procedures of Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) to explicitly target social motivation enhances child engagement and parent-child synchrony in moment-by-moment exchanges. However, it is unclear if these within session improvements ultimately yield favorable developmental outcomes over time. The current investigation presents feasibility, utility, and preliminary efficacy data of a pilot randomized clinical trial (RCT) of a Pivotal Response Intervention for Social Motivation (PRISM) model. Data on participant factors, treatment protocol acceptability, and outcome variance and effect size are highly favorable and support the pursuit of a future, large scale RCT.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10803-019-03909-1DOI Listing
June 2019

Representational coexistence in the God concept: Core knowledge intuitions of God as a person are not revised by Christian theology despite lifelong experience.

Psychon Bull Rev 2018 Dec;25(6):2330-2338

Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, 93106-9660, USA.

Previous research has shown that in the minds of young adult religious adherents, acquired theology about the extraordinary characteristics of God (e.g., omniscience) coexists with, rather than replaces, an initial concept of God formed by co-option of the person concept. We tested the hypothesis that representational coexistence holds even after extensive experience with Christian theology, as indexed by age. Christian religious adherents ranging in age from 18 to 87 years were asked to evaluate as true or false statements on which core knowledge intuitions about persons and Christian theology about God were consistent (both true or both false) or inconsistent (true on one and false on the other). Results showed, across adulthood, more theological errors in evaluating inconsistent versus consistent statements. Older adults also exhibited slower response times to inconsistent versus consistent statements. These findings show that despite extensive experience, indeed a lifetime of experience for some participants, the Christian theological God concept does not separate from the initial person concept from which it is formed. In fact, behavioral signatures of representational coexistence were not attenuated by experience. We discuss the broader implications of these findings to the acquisition of evolutionarily new concepts.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/s13423-017-1421-6DOI Listing
December 2018

Core Intuitions About Persons Coexist and Interfere With Acquired Christian Beliefs About God.

Cogn Sci 2017 Apr 24;41 Suppl 3:425-454. Epub 2016 Nov 24.

Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara.

This study tested the hypothesis that in the minds of adult religious adherents, acquired beliefs about the extraordinary characteristics of God coexist with, rather than replace, an initial representation of God formed by co-option of the evolved person concept. In three experiments, Christian religious adherents were asked to evaluate a series of statements for which core intuitions about persons and acquired Christian beliefs about God were consistent (i.e., true according to both [e.g., "God has beliefs that are true"] or false according to both [e.g., "All beliefs God has are false"]) or inconsistent (i.e., true on intuition but false theologically [e.g., "God has beliefs that are false"] or false on intuition but true theologically [e.g., "All beliefs God has are true"]). Participants were less accurate and slower to respond to inconsistent versus consistent statements, suggesting that the core intuitions both coexisted alongside and interfered with the acquired beliefs (Experiments 1 and 2). In Experiment 2 when responding under time pressure participants were disproportionately more likely to make errors on inconsistent versus consistent statements than when responding with no time pressure, suggesting that the resolution of interference requires cognitive resources the functioning of which decreases under cognitive load. In Experiment 3 a plausible alternative interpretation of these findings was ruled out by demonstrating that the response accuracy and time differences on consistent versus inconsistent statements occur for God-a supernatural religious entity-but not for a natural religious entity (a priest).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cogs.12435DOI Listing
April 2017

Automatic Mechanisms for Social Attention Are Culturally Penetrable.

Cogn Sci 2017 01 16;41(1):242-258. Epub 2015 Dec 16.

Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Are mechanisms for social attention influenced by culture? Evidence that social attention is triggered automatically by bottom-up gaze cues and is uninfluenced by top-down verbal instructions may suggest it operates in the same way everywhere. Yet considerations from evolutionary and cultural psychology suggest that specific aspects of one's cultural background may have consequence for the way mechanisms for social attention develop and operate. In more interdependent cultures, the scope of social attention may be broader, focusing on more individuals and relations between those individuals. We administered a multi-gaze cueing task requiring participants to fixate a foreground face flanked by background faces and measured shifts in attention using eye tracking. For European Americans, gaze cueing did not depend on the direction of background gaze cues, suggesting foreground gaze alone drives automatic attention shifting; for East Asians, cueing patterns differed depending on whether the foreground cue matched or mismatched background cues, suggesting foreground and background gaze information were integrated. These results demonstrate that cultural background influences the social attention system by shifting it into a narrow or broad mode of operation and, importantly, provides evidence challenging the assumption that mechanisms underlying automatic social attention are necessarily rigid and impenetrable to culture.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cogs.12329DOI Listing
January 2017

Specialized mechanisms for theory of mind: are mental representations special because they are mental or because they are representations?

Cognition 2015 Mar 6;136:49-63. Epub 2014 Dec 6.

Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA.

Does theory of mind depend on a capacity to reason about representations generally or on mechanisms selective for the processing of mental state representations? In four experiments, participants reasoned about beliefs (mental representations) and notes (non-mental, linguistic representations), which according to two prominent theories are closely matched representations because both are represented propositionally. Reaction times were faster and accuracies higher when participants endorsed or rejected statements about false beliefs than about false notes (Experiment 1), even when statements emphasized representational format (Experiment 2), which should have favored the activation of representation concepts. Experiments 3 and 4 ruled out a counterhypothesis that differences in task demands were responsible for the advantage in belief processing. These results demonstrate for the first time that understanding of mental and linguistic representations can be dissociated even though both may carry propositional content, supporting the theory that mechanisms governing theory of mind reasoning are narrowly specialized to process mental states, not representations more broadly. Extending this theory, we discuss whether less efficient processing of non-mental representations may be a by-product of mechanisms specialized for processing mental states.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2014.11.016DOI Listing
March 2015

Theory of mind in the wild: toward tackling the challenges of everyday mental state reasoning.

PLoS One 2013 12;8(9):e72835. Epub 2013 Sep 12.

Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California, United States of America.

A complete understanding of the cognitive systems underwriting theory of mind (ToM) abilities requires articulating how mental state representations are generated and processed in everyday situations. Individuals rarely announce their intentions prior to acting, and actions are often consistent with multiple mental states. In order for ToM to operate effectively in such situations, mental state representations should be generated in response to certain actions, even when those actions occur in the presence of mental state content derived from other aspects of the situation. Results from three experiments with preschool children and adults demonstrate that mental state information is indeed generated based on an approach action cue in situations that contain competing mental state information. Further, the frequency with which participants produced or endorsed explanations that include mental states about an approached object decreased when the competing mental state information about a different object was made explicit. This set of experiments provides some of the first steps toward identifying the observable action cues that are used to generate mental state representations in everyday situations and offers insight into how both young children and adults processes multiple mental state representations.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0072835PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3771964PMC
April 2014

Coalitional psychology on the playground: reasoning about indirect social consequences in preschoolers and adults.

Cognition 2013 Mar 29;126(3):352-63. Epub 2012 Dec 29.

Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara, United States.

Surprisingly little is known about how relationship information is used predict others' behavior. We examine a key element of this ability-how relationship information is used to anticipate how others will react to events in which they are not directly involved. This requires both using relationship information to modify expected reactions (e.g., friends may be more responsive than acquaintances) and also inference rules for restricting the class of reactions that may be felt or experienced on behalf of others (e.g., uninvolved friends may become angry but cannot become dizzy). These capacities were examined in both preschoolers and adults. Two different events were presented; one that would elicit anger from those who were involved and one that would elicit dizziness. For both sets of participants, cues to relationship status had a strong impact on anger expectations (uninvolved friends were expected to be more angry than uninvolved classmates), but had no effect dizziness expectations (neither uninvolved friends nor classmates were expected to be dizzy). Follow-up analyses also revealed a developmental difference. Adults made distinctions within the uninvolved friends category-expecting friends to be less angry at their own friend, and that levels of anger would vary according to their friend's role within the social conflict-whereas preschoolers did not. These results demonstrate that by the early preschool years sophisticated inference rules already govern the expected reactions of uninvolved others, but that important developmental differences also remain. These results also indicate that relationship representations are inference engines for anticipating others' behavior and reactions, not simply static containers for sorting people into categories.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2012.10.009DOI Listing
March 2013

A cue-based approach to 'theory of mind': re-examining the notion of automaticity.

Br J Dev Psychol 2012 Mar 23;30(Pt 1):45-58. Epub 2011 Aug 23.

Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA.

The potential utility of a distinction between 'automatic (or spontaneous) and implicit' versus 'controlled and explicit' processes in theory of mind (ToM) is undercut by the fact that the terms can be employed to describe different but related distinctions within cognitive systems serving that function. These include distinctions in the underlying cognitive systems, processes, or representations involved in ToM, distinctions among methodologies or task procedures used to measure ToM, and distinctions among behavioural signatures evaluated as evidence for the engagement of ToM. We propose an approach in which rather than continued dispute over whether or not ToM 'is' or 'is not' automatic, researchers focus instead on discovering what the range of stimulus conditions and task contexts are that give rise to various signatures of the ToM system. These input-output relations will constrain theorizing about the kinds of representations employed, the types of processing operating over those representations, and the overall architecture of ToM mechanisms.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-835X.2011.02055.xDOI Listing
March 2012

A reaction time advantage for calculating beliefs over public representations signals domain specificity for 'theory of mind'.

Cognition 2010 Jun 29;115(3):417-25. Epub 2010 Mar 29.

Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9660, USA.

In a task where participants' overt task was to track the location of an object across a sequence of events, reaction times to unpredictable probes requiring an inference about a social agent's beliefs about the location of that object were obtained. Reaction times to false belief situations were faster than responses about the (false) contents of a map showing the location of the object (Experiment 1) and about the (false) direction of an arrow signaling the location of the object (Experiment 2). These results are consistent with developmental, neuro-imaging and neuropsychological evidence that there exist domain specific mechanisms within human cognition for encoding and reasoning about mental states. Specialization of these mechanisms may arise from either core cognitive architecture or via the accumulation of expertise in the social domain.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2010.03.001DOI Listing
June 2010

The scope of social attention deficits in autism: prioritized orienting to people and animals in static natural scenes.

Neuropsychologia 2010 Jan;48(1):51-9

Yale University, Department of Psychology, USA.

A central feature of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is an impairment in 'social attention'--the prioritized processing of socially relevant information, e.g. the eyes and face. Socially relevant stimuli are also preferentially attended in a broader categorical sense, however: observers orient preferentially to people and animals (compared to inanimate objects) in complex natural scenes. To measure the scope of social attention deficits in autism, observers viewed alternating versions of a natural scene on each trial, and had to 'spot the difference' between them--where the difference involved either an animate or inanimate object. Change detection performance was measured as an index of attentional prioritization. Individuals with ASD showed the same prioritized social attention for animate categories as did control participants. This could not be explained by lower level visual factors, since the effects disappeared when using blurred or inverted images. These results suggest that social attention - and its impairment in autism - may not be a unitary phenomenon: impairments in visual processing of specific social cues may occur despite intact categorical prioritization of social agents.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.08.008DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6102729PMC
January 2010

Encoding of others' beliefs without overt instruction.

Cognition 2009 Jun 18;111(3):356-63. Epub 2009 Apr 18.

Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara 93106-9660, USA.

Under what conditions do people automatically encode and track the mental states of others? A recent investigation showed that when subjects are instructed to track the location of an object but are not instructed to track a belief about that location in a non-verbal false-belief task, they respond more slowly to questions about an agent's belief, suggesting that belief information was not encoded or tracked automatically [Apperly, I. A., Riggs, K. J., Simpson, A., Samson, D., & Chiavarino, C. (2006). Is belief reasoning automatic? Psychological Science, 17, 841-844]. In the current experiments, we show that if belief probes occur closer in time to the events that signal the content of the agent's false belief, responses to those probes are faster than responses to probes about reality, and as fast as responses to probes about belief when instructed to track them, suggesting (i) beliefs may get encoded automatically in response to certain cues and (ii) that belief information rapidly decays unless it is maintained via 'top-down' instructions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2009.03.004DOI Listing
June 2009

A developmental dissociation between category and function judgments about novel artifacts.

Cognition 2009 Feb 20;110(2):260-4. Epub 2008 Dec 20.

Division of Psychology, University of Northumbria, United Kingdom.

Two studies investigated the relative importance of information about intended design and current use on judgments about the function (Experiment 1) or category (Experiment 2) of novel artifacts in preschool children and adults. Adults assigned function and name on the basis of information about design across all conditions, while children's decisions about function dissociated from decisions about category. Function judgments (in both 4 and 6-year-olds) were neutral between design and current use, both when the current use was idiosyncratic (e.g. performed by just one agent) and conventional (performed by many people; Experiment 1). By contrast, where category judgments were required for the very same objects (Experiment 2), children named according to design intentions - but only if the alternate function was idiosyncratic. Judging function and assigning category are thus cognitive tasks that draw on different information across development, a fact that should be captured by theories of developing artifact concept structure.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2008.10.014DOI Listing
February 2009

Developmental changes in information central to artifact representation: evidence from 'functional fluency' tasks.

Dev Sci 2007 Sep;10(5):538-46

Division of Psychology, Northumbria University, UK.

Research suggests that while information about design is a central feature of older children's artifact representations it may be less important in the artifact representations of younger children. Three experiments explore the pattern of responses that 5- and 7-year-old children generate when asked to produce multiple uses for familiar (Experiments 1, 2) and novel (Experiment 3) named objects. Results showed that while older children tended to produce responses based on the known design function of the object, younger children's responses were more flexible, though still constrained by the mechanical structure of the object. Only when ignorant of a novel object's design function did older children produce more varied functions than did younger children. These results suggest that representations supporting object function undergo change across this period of development, with information about design assuming more importance later than it does earlier.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7687.2007.00617.xDOI Listing
September 2007