Infants’ grasp of others’ intentions

  • Autism Research
Speaker Amanda Woodward, Ph.D.
University of Chicago
Date & Time


Gerald D. Fischbach Auditorium
160 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10010 United States

Autism Research

Autism Research lectures bring together scientists and scholars to discuss diverse and important topics related to autism.

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On 6 November 2013, Amanda Woodward discussed the origins of children’s social understanding and how this fundamental aspect of cognition has profound implications for early childhood development. Her talk was part of the Simons Foundation Autism Research lecture series.

Kevin Pelphrey provided post-lecture commentary on how our growing understanding of the origins of children’s social cognition can inform the search for early diagnostic indicators of autism.

You can watch a complete video recording of the event above. Use the comments section below to discuss the lecture and pose follow-up questions.

About the Lecture

Growing evidence shows that in typical development, the ability to carry out actions according to intentions emerges during infancy. Studies over the past few years have shown that this ability develops and changes rapidly during infancy. An infant’s active engagement with the physical and social world is critical for acquiring social skills.

About the commentator:

Kevin Pelphrey is Harris Professor at the Yale Child Study Center and director of the Center for Translational Developmental Neuroscience and the Yale Center for Excellence in Autism Research and Treatment. As a SFARI Investigator, his research focuses on the application of cognitive neuroscience and genetics techniques to understanding the systems biology of neurodevelopmental disorders.

About the Speaker

Amanda Woodward is William S. Gray Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago and director of the university’s Infant Learning and Development Laboratory.

Woodward is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and of the Association for Psychological Science. She is incoming president of the Cognitive Development Society and serves on the executive board of the International Society on Infant Studies. Woodward has pioneered the study of infant social cognition, particularly infants’ understanding of others’ actions and the relationship between infants’ own actions and their action perception. Her team also investigates infants’ learning from social partners, and cross-cultural variations in early social learning.

Past Lectures

How emotions shape our memories

Kelsey C. Martin, M.D., Ph.D.Executive Vice President, Autism and Neuroscience
Leonard Mlodinow, Ph.D.Physicist and Author

Have you ever contemplated the difference between a feeling, a thought and a memory? And how do all these things fit together in making us who we are?

Leonard Mlodinow is a theoretical physicist and best-selling author. In his latest book, “Emotional: How Feelings Shape Our Thinking,” he unpacks the role emotions play in our thinking and mental well-being.

Kelsey Martin, director of the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) and the foundation’s neuroscience collaborations, has spent much of her career as a neuroscientist seeking to understand better how experiences change brain connectivity to store long-term memories.

What do we mean by ‘autism risk genes’?

David Ledbetter, Ph.D.
Chief Clinical Officer, Dascena

Joseph Buxbaum, Ph.D.
Director, Seaver Autism Center
Professor, Psychiatry, Neuroscience, Genetics and Genomic Sciences
Vice Chair for Research and Vice Chair for Mentoring, Psychiatry, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Heather Mefford, M.D., Ph.D.
Full Member, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

David Ledbetter and Joseph Buxbaum discussed whether there are genes for which mutations confer risk specific to autism or whether these genes are really conferring general risk of disrupted brain development. The discussion was moderated by Heather Mefford.

Small molecules, genes and antisense oligonucleotides: Industry perspectives on treatment development for ASD

Federico Bolognani, M.D., Ph.D.
Vice President, Head of Clinical Science, Axial Therapeutics

Stuart Cobb, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Officer, Neurogene; Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh

Yael Weiss, M.D., Ph.D.
Vice President, Business Development, Ultragenyx

Randy Carpenter, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer, Rett Syndrome Research Trust; Co-Founder, Allos Pharma

Federico Bolognani, Stuart Cobb, and Yael Weiss joined a panel to discuss new industry developments on the use of small molecules, gene therapy and antisense oligonucleotides as treatment approaches for autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The panel discussion was moderated by Randall Carpenter.

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