Kristin Hansen Lagattuta

University of California, Davis, Davis, California, United States

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Publications (34)117.08 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Research on the development of theory of mind (ToM), the understanding of people in relation to mental states and emotions, has been a vibrant area of cognitive development research. Because the dominant focus has been addressing when children acquire a ToM, researchers have concentrated their efforts on studying the emergence of psychological understanding during infancy and early childhood. Here, the benchmark test has been the false-belief task, the awareness that the mind can misrepresent reality. While understanding false belief is a critical milestone achieved by the age of 4 or 5, children make further advances in their knowledge about mental states and emotions during middle childhood and beyond. Thus, a comprehensive understanding of children's sociocognitive abilities in older age groups is necessary to understand more fully the course of ToM development. The aim of this review is to outline continued development in ToM during middle childhood. In particular, we focus on children's understanding of interpretation-that different minds can construct different interpretations of the same reality. Additionally, we consider children's growing understanding of how mental states (thoughts, emotions, decisions) derive from personal experiences, cohere across time, and interconnect (e.g., thoughts shape emotions). We close with a discussion of the surprising paucity of studies investigating individual differences in ToM beyond age 6. Our hope is that this chapter will invigorate empirical interest in moving the pendulum toward the opposite research direction-toward exploring strengths, limitations, variability, and persistent errors in developing theories of mind across the life span. © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2015 · Advances in child development and behavior
  • Katie Kennedy · Kristin Hansen Lagattuta · Liat Sayfan
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    ABSTRACT: Prior investigations of relations between sibling composition and theory of mind have focused almost exclusively on false belief understanding in children 6years of age and younger. The current work expands previous research by examining whether sibling composition predicts 4- to 11-year-olds' (N=192) more advanced mental state reasoning on interpretive theory of mind tasks. Even when controlling for age and executive function, children with a greater number of older siblings or with more same-sex siblings demonstrated stronger knowledge in both their predictions and explanations that people with different past experiences can have diverse interpretations of ambiguous stimuli. These data provide some of the first documentation of sibling constellations that predict individual differences in theory of mind during middle childhood. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    No preview · Article · Apr 2015 · Journal of Experimental Child Psychology
  • Hannah J Kramer · Kristin Hansen Lagattuta · Liat Sayfan
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    ABSTRACT: This study compared the relative difficulty of the happy-sad inhibitory control task (say "happy" for the sad face and "sad" for the happy face) against other card tasks that varied by the presence and type (focal vs. peripheral; negative vs. positive) of emotional information in a sample of 4- to 11-year-olds and adults (N = 264). Participants also completed parallel "name games" (direct labeling). All age groups made more errors and took longer to respond to happy-sad compared to other versions, and the relative difficulty of happy-sad increased with age. The happy-sad name game even posed a greater challenge than some opposite games. These data provide insight into the impact of emotions on cognitive processing across a wide age range. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
    No preview · Article · Oct 2014 · Emotion
  • Kristin Hansen Lagattuta
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    ABSTRACT: Remembering the past can shape current emotions and behaviors as well as bias anticipations of the future. This awareness that mental states and emotions cohere across time—sometimes called mental time travel—is a fundamental component of social cognition critical for assessing risk, making decisions, and understanding others. In this article, I highlight early competencies and development in young children's reasoning about connections among life history, mind, and emotion. I focus primarily on children's knowledge about emotions and decisions caused by being reminded about the past and thinking about the future. Findings reveal surprising insights in children as young as 3–4 years of age, age-related changes through middle childhood into adulthood, and individual differences that have implications for mental health.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2014 · Child Development Perspectives
  • Drika Weller · Kristin Hansen Lagattuta
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    ABSTRACT: Children ages 5–13 years (N = 82) responded to prosocial and prohibitive moral dilemmas featuring characters whose desires conflicted with another person's need for help or ownership rights. The gender of the characters matched for half the trials (in-group version) and mismatched for the other half (out-group version). Both boys and girls judged that people would more likely help and not harm the gender in-group versus out-group. Only girls exhibited gender bias in emotion attributions, expecting girls to feel happier helping girls and better ignoring the needs of boys. With increasing age, children exhibited greater awareness of the emotional benefits of prosocial sacrifice and made stronger distinctions by need level when evaluating prosocial decisions, obligations, and permissibility.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2014 · Child Development
  • Kristin Hansen Lagattuta · Liat Sayfan · Christina Harvey
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    ABSTRACT: Four- to 10-year-olds' and adults' (N = 263) ability to inhibit privileged knowledge and simulate a naïve perspective were examined. Participants viewed pictures that were then occluded aside from a small ambiguous part. They offered suggestions for how a naïve person might interpret the hidden pictures, as well as rated the probability that a naïve person would think of several different pictures (with one picture being the actual item). Results indicated a significant increase between ages 4 and 7 years in attributing novel interpretations; however, all age groups overestimated the probability that a naïve person could guess the actual pictures. Individual differences in working memory and inhibitory control predicted participants' thought suggestions as well as aspects of their probability judgments.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2013 · Child Development
  • Kristin Hansen Lagattuta · Liat Sayfan
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    ABSTRACT: Four- to 10-year-olds and adults (N = 265) responded to eight scenarios presented on an eye tracker. Each trial involved a character who encounters a perpetrator who had previously enacted positive (P), negative (N), or both types of actions toward him or her in varying sequences (NN, PP, PN, and NP). Participants predicted the character's thoughts about the likelihood of future events, emotion type and intensity, and decision to approach or avoid. All ages made more positive forecasts for PP > NP > PN > NN trials, with differentiation by past experience widening with age. Age-related increases in weighting the most recent past event also appeared in eye gaze. Individual differences in biased visual attention correlated with verbal judgments. Findings contribute to research on risk assessment, person perception, and heuristics in judgment and decision making.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2013 · Child Development
  • Drika Weller · Kristin Hansen Lagattuta
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    ABSTRACT: Five- to 13-year-old European American children (N = 76) predicted characters' decisions, emotions, and obligations in prosocial moral dilemmas. Across age, children judged that characters would feel more positive emotions helping an unfamiliar child from the racial in-group versus out-group (African American), happier ignoring the needs of a child from the racial out-group versus in-group, and greater obligation to help a child from the racial in-group versus out-group. Situations varied by whether the race of the needy child matched versus mismatched that of the focal character. With increasing age, children attributed more positive emotions to people who sacrifice their own desires to help needy others as well as became more discriminating about the situations that call for altruistic action.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2012 · Child Development
  • Kristin Hansen Lagattuta · Liat Sayfan · Christi Bamford
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    ABSTRACT: Three studies assessed parent-child agreement in perceptions of children's everyday emotions in typically developing 4- to 11-year-old children. Study 1 (N=228) and Study 2 (N=195) focused on children's worry and anxiety. Study 3 (N=90) examined children's optimism. Despite child and parent reporters providing internally consistent responses, their perceptions about children's emotional wellbeing consistently failed to correlate. Parents significantly underestimated child worry and anxiety and overestimated optimism compared to child self-report (suggesting a parental positivity bias). Moreover, parents' self-reported emotions correlated with how they reported their children's emotions (suggesting an egocentric bias). These findings have implications for developmental researchers, clinicians, and parents.
    No preview · Article · Jun 2012 · Journal of Experimental Child Psychology
  • Christi Bamford · Kristin Hansen Lagattuta
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    ABSTRACT: Five- to 10-year-olds (N = 90) listened to 6 illustrated scenarios featuring 2 characters that jointly experience the same positive event (and feel good), negative event (and feel bad), or ambiguous event (and feel okay). Afterward, one character thinks a positive thought and the other thinks a negative thought. Children predicted and explained each character's emotions. Results showed significant development between 5 and 10 years in children's understanding that thinking positively improves emotions and thinking negatively makes one feel worse, with earliest knowledge demonstrated when reasoning about ambiguous and positive events. Individual differences in child and parental optimism and hope predicted children's knowledge about thought-emotion connections on some measures, including their beliefs about the emotional benefits of thinking positively in negative situations.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2011 · Child Development
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    Kristin Hansen Lagattuta · Liat Sayfan
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    ABSTRACT: Two measures assessed 4–10-year-olds’ and adults’ (N=201) understanding of future likelihood and uncertainty. In one task, participants sequenced sets of event pictures varying by one physical dimension according to increasing future likelihood. In a separate task, participants rated characters’ thoughts about the likelihood of future events, their emotions, and their decisions in indeterminate social situations. Results showed significant development between ages 4 and 10 in seriating events according to future likelihood and in selecting thought and emotion ratings indicative of future uncertainty. Higher performance on the future likelihood ordering task correlated with greater understanding of future uncertainty in thought, emotion, and decision judgments. Females judged future events to be more uncertain than males.
    Preview · Article · Oct 2011 · Cognitive Development
  • Kristin Hansen Lagattuta · Liat Sayfan · Michael Monsour
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    ABSTRACT: Two experiments examined 4- to 11-year-olds' and adults' performance (N = 350) on two variants of a Stroop-like card task: the day-night task (say 'day' when shown a moon and 'night' when shown a sun) and a new happy-sad task (say 'happy' for a sad face and 'sad' for a happy face). Experiment 1 featured colored cartoon drawings. In Experiment 2, the happy-sad task featured photographs, and pictures for both measures were gray scale. All age groups made more errors and took longer to respond to the happy-sad versus the day-night versions. Unlike the day-night task, the happy-sad task did not suffer from ceiling effects, even in adults. The happy-sad task provides a methodological advance for measuring executive function across a wide age range.
    No preview · Article · May 2011 · Developmental Science
  • Kristin Hansen Lagattuta · Liat Sayfan · Amanda J Blattman
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    ABSTRACT: Four- to 9-year-olds and adults (N = 256) viewed a series of pictures that were covered with occluders to reveal nondescript or identifiable parts. Participants predicted how 3 characters, 1 who had previously viewed the full picture and 2 who had not, would interpret the obstructed drawings. Results showed significant development between 4 and 9 years and between 9 years and adulthood in understanding thought diversity as well as situations in which people should think alike. There was also evidence for a U-shaped developmental curve, with 6- to 7-year-olds most often overextending the rule that people will think differently, particularly on the initial testing trials. Performance on the different interpretive theory-of-mind measures was differentially related to individual differences in inhibitory control and verbal working memory.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2010 · Developmental Psychology
  • Kristin Hansen Lagattuta · Larry Nucci · Sandra Leanne Bosacki
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    ABSTRACT: Four-, 5-, and 7-year-olds (N = 60) listened to vignettes featuring characters that wanted to do actions that conflicted with parental rules. Desires included behaviors associated with the personal domain: friend, activity, and clothing choice. Scenarios involving moral rules served as a comparison. Children predicted and explained characters' actions and emotions. Results showed significant increases between 4 and 7 in judgments that characters would comply with rules and feel good, but only for situations involving moral rules. Children frequently predicted that characters would disobey rules that intruded on the personal domain and would feel positive emotions following noncompliance, especially when activities were essential to that character's identity. Findings are discussed in relation to the development of self and personal control.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2010 · Child Development
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    Christi Bamford · Kristin Hansen Lagattuta
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    ABSTRACT: Multiple methods were used to examine children's awareness of connections between emotion and prayer. Four-, 6-, and 8-year-olds and adults (N = 100) predicted whether people would pray when feeling different emotions, explained why characters in different situations decided to pray, and predicted whether characters' emotions would change after praying. Four- and 6-year-olds exclusively judged that positive emotions motivate prayer, whereas 8-year-olds and adults most often predicted that negative emotions would cause people to pray and that praying could improve emotions. There was also a significant increase between 4 and 8 years in explaining prayer as motivated by need for assistance, for thanksgiving, and for conversation, as well as for explaining postprayer emotions in relation to God or prayer. Religious background predicted individual differences in reasoning only for 4-year-olds.
    Preview · Article · Jan 2010 · Developmental Psychology
  • Liat Sayfan · Kristin Hansen Lagattuta
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    ABSTRACT: Children around 4, 5, and 7 years old (N = 48) listened to scenarios depicting a child alone or accompanied by another person (mother, father, friend) who encounters an entity that looks like a real or an imaginary fear-inducing creature. Participants predicted and explained each protagonist's fear intensity and suggested coping strategies. Results showed age-related increases in judgments that different people will experience different intensities of fear in the same situation. With age, children also demonstrated increasing knowledge that people's minds can both induce and reduce fear, especially in situations involving imaginary creatures. Suggestions of reality affirmation strategies (e.g., reminding oneself of what is real vs. not real) significantly increased with age, whereas positive pretense strategies (e.g., imagining it is a friendly ghost) significantly decreased.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2009 · Child Development
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    Jennifer Amsterlaw · Kristin Hansen Lagattuta · Andrew N Meltzoff
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    ABSTRACT: This study assessed young children's understanding of the effects of emotional and physiological states on cognitive performance. Five, 6-, 7-year-olds, and adults (N= 96) predicted and explained how children experiencing a variety of physiological and emotional states would perform on academic tasks. Scenarios included: (a) negative and positive emotions, (b) negative and positive physiological states, and (c) control conditions. All age groups understood the impairing effects of negative emotions and physiological states. Only 7-year-olds, however, showed adult-like reasoning about the potential enhancing effects of positive internal states and routinely cited cognitive mechanisms to explain how internal states affect performance. These results shed light on theory-of-mind development and also have significance for children's everyday school success.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2009 · Child Development
  • Kristin Hansen Lagattuta
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    ABSTRACT: Four-year-olds, 5-year-olds, and adults (N = 48) listened to stories featuring characters that experienced one of four types of thoughts after deciding to transgress or comply with a rule: thoughts about desires, rules, future negative outcomes, or future punishment. Participants predicted and explained the characters' emotions. Results showed that young children, as with adults, predicted positive emotions for willpower and negative emotions for transgression at low rates for the think-desire trials, and at high rates for the think-rule and think-future trials. They also modified their emotion explanations in line with the focus of characters' thoughts. These data provide unprecedented evidence that young children can reason flexibly about emotions in rule situations when provided explicit, salient information about people's thoughts.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2008 · Developmental Science
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    Liat Sayfan · Kristin Hansen Lagattuta
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    ABSTRACT: Three-, 5-, and 7-year-olds and adults (N= 64) listened to stories depicting 2 protagonists of different ages (infant and child or child and grown-up) that encounter an entity that looks like a real (e.g., a snake) or an imaginary (e.g., a ghost) fear-inducing creature. Participants predicted and explained each protagonist's intensity of fear. Results showed significant age-related increases in knowledge that infants and adults would experience less intense fears than young children and that people's fears are causally linked to their cognitive mental states. Across age, stories involving imaginary beings elicited more frequent mental explanations for fear than stories about real creatures. Results are discussed in relation to children's developing awareness of the mind as mediating between situations and emotions.
    Preview · Article · Jun 2008 · Child Development
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    ABSTRACT: The present study extends previous results demonstrating a relation between maternal discourse and child social understanding to include paternal discourse. Emotion understanding (EU) and theory of mind (ToM) were considered as two distinctive aspects of social understanding. Participants were 106 children (54 boys and 52 girls) studied at 3.5 and 5 years. Discourse measures came from separate parent–child conversations during a picture-book task; measures of EU and ToM came from children's performance on social cognition tasks. Differences in parental talk translated into important differences in the influence of each parent on children's social-cognitive understanding. Mothers' references to emotion and emotion causal explanatory language predicted children's concurrent EU. Fathers' use of causal explanatory language referring to desires and emotions predicted children's concurrent and later ToM. These results highlight important differences between mothers and fathers in their use of internal state language and its impact on children's social-cognitive understanding.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2008 · Review of Social Development

Publication Stats

800 Citations
117.08 Total Impact Points


  • 2004-2015
    • University of California, Davis
      • Department of Psychology
      Davis, California, United States
  • 2003
    • University of Cambridge
      • Autism Research Centre (ARC)
      Cambridge, England, United Kingdom
  • 1997-2001
    • University of Michigan
      • Department of Cell and Developmental Biology
      Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States