A new learning survey has been launched in an attempt to understand how babies and toddlers read others’ minds.

Throughout October, Dr Elena Hoicka, based at the University of Sheffield, is seeking to uncover how children from newborn to the age of 47 months understand their social world. This includes how and when they learn to interpret what is going on in the minds of others, such as their desires, intentions, and knowledge.

Parents from all around the world are being encouraged to participate in the research project by completing the Early Social Learning Survey, which can be found at www.babylovesscience.com.

The survey only takes around 10 minutes complete and asks questions about how children understand the differences between themselves and others. For example, one question asks whether the child understands that other people could have opposite preferences to them, such as preferring broccoli to chocolate.

All-inclusive survey

The study is totally inclusive, so Dr Hoicka wants to hear from parents of children with all type development types, including conditions such as Down’s syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Once the survey has been completed, parents will receive a summary of how many socio-cognitive skills their child possesses (how much they have learnt by watching others).

This is the first survey of its kind to examine how understanding others’ minds develops as early as birth, and will shed light on a significant aspect of development.

Understanding social development

Dr Hoicka hope that this unique survey will help us to examine our social development: “Understanding others’ minds is an essential skill as it allows us to understand what motivates others and how to interact effectively with those around us. However this skill takes time to develop, and some people have delays or difficulties in this area.

“This is why it’s critical to see how mind-reading skills develop from birth, and whether there are certain milestones and patterns that help most children develop to their full potential.

“It is really important for parents of children from birth to preschool age to help us answer these critical questions about the early development of mind-reading.”