The Surprising Ability of Putting Ourselves in Others’ Shoes

A kids’ game reveals the mysteries of its development


Can children take the perspective of others?

The American Psychological Association defines a false-belief task as:

We are born with an altercentric bias

This fancy term means that infants tend to value more the perspective of people that surrounds them instead of their own. Why does this happen? Southgate exposes two arguments:

  • A well-developed self-perspective is lacking until 2 years of age.
  • Age 2–4 years: We are full egocentric.
  • Age >4–5 years: We start to learn to balance the self and the other’s perspective.


Southgate’s theory implies that infants are more altercentric than older children and adults (they value more other’s perspectives). And, at the same time, they are less egocentric (they don’t have a well-developed self-perspective). When we are infants we are better suited to put ourselves in other’s shoes and we lose this ability when we get to 2–4 y.o because we start to see the world through our own lenses.

Half engineer, half neuroscientist. Interested in humanities | Words in The Startup, TDS, The Ascent, Mind Cafe |

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