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The Innate MindStructure and Contents$
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Peter Carruthers, Stephen Laurence, and Stephen Stich

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195179675

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195179675.001.0001

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Parent‐Offspring Conflict and the Development of Social Understanding *

Parent‐Offspring Conflict and the Development of Social Understanding *

(p.239) 14 Parent‐Offspring Conflict and the Development of Social Understanding*
The Innate Mind

Daniel J. Povinelli

Christopher G. Prince

Todd M. Preuss

Oxford University Press

This chapter begins with a brief review of the theory of parent-offspring conflict and considers the role of this conflict in the cognitive development of human infants. It then discusses the evolution of theory of mind — which is taken to have its origins in human evolution — and considers how this human cognitive specialization might have interacted with existing parent-offspring dynamics. How the epigenetic systems of infants might have responded is shown by elaborating upon existing cognitive and behavioural systems, or by canalizing later developing ones earlier into development, in order to recruit higher degrees of parental investment. The merits of this framework is assessed in the context of the development of behaviours considered by some researchers to be indicative of a certain degree of social understanding, namely, gaze-following, pointing, social smiling, and neonatal imitation. The chapter concludes by showing how this proposal makes several longstanding theoretical and methodological difficulties for the field of cognitive development even more vexing.

Keywords:   parent–offspring conflict, cognitive development, infants, theory of mind, evolution

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