300 N. Ingalss Bldg. Room 1039EC Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Henry Wellman is a developmental psychologist specializing in cognitive development. His research focuses on core cognitive domains. Such domains, like the child's understanding of language or space, are rapidly acquired cognitive structures that frame and encourage further developments. Much of his current research focuses on the child's developing understanding of people or "theory of mind." This term refers to our everyday understanding of persons in terms of their inner psychological states and processes. We see an actor's external behaviors, for example, as a product of his or her internal beliefs, desires, emotions, and intentions.
When and how do children acquire an everday theory of mind, the basic bedrock for our common understanding of self and others? Wellman's research focuses on this question in children from infancy to adulthood, growing up in this and other cultures, as well as impaired children (such as individuals with autism) that seem to fail to develop a normal understanding of people's mental lives. His research is cognitive and cultural -- he researches the differing conceptions of persons acquired by children growing up in different cultural communities, and very basic social conceptions in infants and young preschoolers, that allow cultural learnings to occur in the first place.
Wellman received a Merit Award (Method to Extend Research in Time) from NICHD in October, 2005, for his work on child's theory of mind.
"Developing a Theory of Mind"
Wellman, In press
"Infant Attention to Intentional Action Predicts Preschool Theory of Mind"
Wellman, et. al., 2008