Brown Bag Cathal O'Madagain Département d'Etudes Cognitives, ENS Ulm du 8 avril 2019



Developmental Origins of Objectivity


A concept that we repeatedly appeal to in human life is that of objectivity: the idea that the facts are independent of anyone’s beliefs. This is what motivates us as scientists to look for evidence that might confirm or disconfirm a hypothesis, why we have a ‘reliability coder’ double-check our observations, and it is the standard against which we hold the claims of political figures accountable. What is the developmental origin of this concept? Here I explore the development of false belief understanding – a key component of the concept – and raise challenges for whether tests developed so far should be thought to really get at an understanding of objectivity. I then present new results studies that aim to get closer to a general test for objectivity – tests that require participants to understand that ‘anyone can be wrong’ about the facts. I end with some considerations for how language and social interaction may play a role in the development of this concept.