Puzzling Over People: Social Reasoning in Childhood and Adolescence

This is a course from a previous year. View the current courses

We humans tend to find other people the most interesting “objects” in our lives—and for good reason. As infants, we are completely dependent upon them for our very survival; and throughout our lives, other people serve as the social bedrock of our existence. We are a social species, one that derives “fitness” through our abilities to read the social terrain and to figure out social meaning in our interactions with others. There is a range of timely questions to address: How do we do this, and how does it develop throughout childhood? Are we “hardwired” in some ways to feel what other people are feeling? What about the special case of childhood autism? How do our emotions interact with our cognitions about the social world to affect our views of self and other and our future social lives? What would cause us to have a relatively good or poor “emotional IQ,” and what are the consequences? What are the roles of family and childhood friends in this process? These are some of the issues we will address in this course. The opportunity will be available for hands-on fieldwork with children to observe them puzzling over people in real life.