Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Theory of mind (ToM)—our ability to predict behaviors of others in terms of their underlying intentions—has been examined through false-belief (FB) tasks. We studied 12 Japanese early bilingual children (8−12 years of age) and 16 late bilingual adults (18−40 years of age) with FB tasks in Japanese [first language (L1)] and English [second language (L2)], using fMRI. Children recruited more brain regions than adults for processing ToM tasks in both languages. Moreover, children showed an overlap in brain activity between the L1 and L2 ToM conditions in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). Adults did not show such a convergent activity in the mPFC region, but instead, showed brain activity that varied depending on the language used in the ToM task. The developmental shift from more to less ToM specific brain activity may reflect increasing automatization of ToM processing as people age. These results also suggest that bilinguals recruit different resources to understand ToM depending on the language used in the task, and this difference is greater later in life.
Kobayashi, Chiyoko; Glover, Gary H.; and Temple, Elise, "Switching Language Switches Mind: Linguistic Effects on Developmental Neural Bases of ‘Theory of Mind’" (2008). Open Dartmouth: Faculty Open Access Scholarship. 3781.