Neuropsychology: why do we understand others?

To put yourself in the place of other people is not innate and acquired psychological ability that small children have to learn. Which parts of the brain that play a critical role, recently found by researchers. According to the research, the main role is played by a special combination of fibers that connects the two parts of the brain. Only then, when there is the “path” for data transmission between these two parts of the brain, people can distinguish the “I” and projection of others.
To put yourself in the other person — is a basic prerequisite for social interaction. Adults are usually easily distinguished not their own thoughts and feelings, but young children initially do not have this opportunity. Only at the age of 3-4 years, they suddenly begin to understand — others may think differently than they. First, children think that beliefs do not exist outside their immediate experience. But after the third year of life they are making a big step in development.

Charlotte Grosse-Wiesmann (Charlotte Grosse-Wiesmann) and her colleagues from the Institute of cognitive and neurological research max Planck (Leipzig) recently found out what it involves.

Chocolate or pencils?

Scientists wanted to know what changes in the brain allow young children to attribute certain statements to others. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the researchers examined how distributed white matter in various brain areas and how these areas are interconnected. Subjects were 43 children aged three to four years.

The data obtained, the researchers compared the results of behavioral experiment — test on false beliefs. They tested whether children understand that other people sometimes are convinced that is actually not true.

Subjects were shown a pack of bars, inside which was the pencils. They were then asked what another child, when you see the box. Children who have not yet learned to distinguish other people’s opinions, this question is answered “pencils.” They did not take into account what the other child does not know about the contents of the box.

The decisive link

Brain scans and the results of the experiment showed correlation. To distinguish between “I” and projection of the other, the most important is the formation of a special combination of fibres — the Fasciculus arcuatus. At some point between the ages of three to four years the fibres of this structure so strongly developed, that it is like the information highway (a kind of “superhighway”) connects two important brain region in the posterior temporal lobe (it helps to think about other people and their beliefs) with a plot of the frontal lobe (through it we perceive things at different levels of abstraction), can distinguish the opinions of others and the real world.

The connection of the fibers promotes empathy

Only when these areas are connected Fasciculus arcuatus, children begin to make correct assumptions about the views of others and understand that different child may hope for chocolate packing, and not think about the pencils. Interestingly, a new formation in the brain supports this ability no matter how well developed other mental abilities of the child such as intelligence, speech understanding, and impulse control.

“The well-developed Fasciculus Arcuatus may also be the reason why people could not be better able to understand others and their reactions, says Grosse-Wiesmann. Because primates can put themselves in the place of another, but to a much lesser extent. This probably can be explained by the existence of less severe when these fibers,” she suggests.

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