Watch your metastep: The first-order limits of early intentional attributions

In C. Kanzian, J. Quitterer & L. Runggaldier (eds.), Persons: An Interdisciplinary Approach. Holder-Pichler-Tempsky (2003)
There is a wide and puzzleful gap between the child’s mastery of first- and recursive or higher-order attributions of attitudes, measured not only in years but also in the cognitive resources involved. Some accounts explain the gap in terms of the maturation of the competencies involved, others invoke the slow development of enabling resources, such as short-term memory, the syntax of sentence embedding or sequential reasoning. All these accounts assume a continuity of competence between first- and higher-order attributions. I disagree and argue, with psychological and neuroscientific support, that there are two distinct (though developmentally overlapping and interacting) competencies, one metaintentional and the other metarepresentational. I focus below on the former and argue that it is egocentric, situated, nonpropositional and thus intrinsically limited to first-order attributions, even when all the enabling resources are in place
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