Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jara-Ettinger, Julian


Of the capacities that make us uniquely human—pedagogy, social learning, coop- eration, communication, moral evaluation—all hinge, at least in part, on an under- standing of what others know or believe. Critically, we cannot see mental states: we have access only to the observable behaviors they cause. So, to navigate the social world, we must often infer what others think from observing what they do. While prior work has investigated how children and adults infer preferences, goals, and desires from behavior, little research has investigated how we infer epistemic states (knowledge and beliefs). In this thesis, I expand upon existing accounts of mental state reasoning to formalize a novel theoretical account of epistemic inference. I test whether this account captures adults’ knowledge inferences, and use it to systemati- cally investigate the development of our capacities.