Tamsin German

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Research Area

Developmental and Evolutionary Psychology


Tamsin German studied Experimental Psychology at Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford, earning her B.A. in Experimental Psychology (1991), before moving to London to study at the Medical Research Council Cognitive Development Unit and the Department of Psychological & Brain sciences, University College London. She earned her Ph. D. in Psychology (1995). After a short appointment as a visiting Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Center for Cognitive Science at Rutgers University during 1995 and a first faculty position at the Department of Psychology, University of Essex, UK, from 1996-2001, Tamsin accepted her current position at UCSB.


My research agenda is concerned with understanding the nature, acquisition and brain basis of the human capacity to attend to and reason about the behavior of other individuals in terms of their mental states (e.g. their beliefs and desires). This capacity is sometimes referred to as ‘theory of mind’ or ‘commonsense psychology’. Under this broad goal, my research addresses several related questions: i) What is the nature of the mechanisms underlying the development of ‘theory of mind’ across the preschool period and beyond? ii) How does information from the domain of theory of mind get integrated, during development, with other domains of knowledge to support our everyday understanding of tools and tool use? iii) What areas of brain circuitry support the range of capacities that are collected under the term ‘theory of mind’, and how are these capacities differentially spared or compromised by developmental or acquired brain injury?

Selected Publications

Wertz, A.E. & German, T. (in press). Belief-desire reasoning in the explanation of behavior: Do actions speak louder than words? Cognition.

German, T. & Hehman, J.A. (2006). Representational and executive selection resources in ‘theory of mind’: Evidence from compromised belief-desire reasoning in old age. Cognition101, 129-152.

Yazdi, A.A., German, T., Defeyter, M.A., & Siegal, M. (2006). Competence and performance in belief-desire reasoning across two cultures: The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about false belief? Cognition100, 343-368.

Truxaw, D., Krasnow, M., Woods, C., & German, T. (2006) Conditions under which function information attenuates name extension via shape Psychological Science17, 367-371.

German, T. & Barrett, H.C. (2005). Functional fixedness in a technologically sparse culture. Psychological Science10, 1-5.

German, T., Niehaus, J.L., Roarty, M., Giesbrecht, B., & Miller, M.B. (2004). Neural correlates of detecting pretense: Automatic engagement of the intentional stance under covert conditions. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience10, 1805-1817.

Defeyter, M.A. & German, T. (2003). Acquiring an understanding of design: Evidence from children’s insight problem solving. Cognition89, 133-155.

German, T. & Nichols, S. (2003). Children’s counterfactual inferences about long and short causal chains. Developmental Science6, 514-523.

German, T. & Johnson, S.A. (2002). Function and the origins of the design stance. Journal of Cognition and Development3, 279-300.

German, T. & Defeyter, M.A. (2000). Immunity to functional fixedness in young children. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review7, 707-712.

Bloom, P. & German, T. (2000). Two reasons to abandon the false belief task as a test of theory of mind. Cognition77, B25-B32.