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Statistical learning as a basis for social understanding in children


Correspondence should be addressed toTed Ruffman, Department of Psychology, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand (e-mail:


Many authors have argued that infants understand goals, intentions, and beliefs. We posit that infants’ success on such tasks might instead reveal an understanding of behaviour, that infants’ proficient statistical learning abilities might enable such insights, and that maternal talk scaffolds children's learning about the social world as well. We also consider which skills and insights are likely to be innate, and why it is difficult to say exactly when children understand mental states as opposed to behaviours.