A Telling Story

Unravelling Mindreading Skills through Storytelling and Narratives 

In this research project we collect and analyse children's fantasy narratives to understand how they learn to see the world through the eyes of others. Here you can find detailed information about the project, team, our storytelling workshop, recent events, newsletters, and publications. We are affiliated with the Creative Intelligence Lab at the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science and have received funding from the Elise Mathilde Fund / LUF (2018) and NWO (Veni, 2019).

Nice news: we have received the Best Paper Award at the Conference for Natural Language Learning (CoNLL) in Singapore, 2023, for the paper presenting our corpus, ChiSCor.

Narratives as windows on children's mindreading skills - project outline

Mindreading, a.k.a. Theory of Mind or Intentional Reasoning,  is the ability to empathise with others and reason about how the world looks from their perspective.

Our project is a multidisciplinary endeavour to understand mindreading from an angle that differs from the dominant paradigm in psychology, i.e. using cognitive and behavioural experiments. Instead we collect fantasy narratives told freely by children aged 4-12 at primary schools, day cares, and community centres, building on the assumption that narratives are a natural place to explore and learn about others' perspectives, intentions, beliefs, and desires,  and that we can see children's mindreading skills reflected in the narratives they create.

We manually add annotations about, for example, how complex story characters are that the children create, or in what narratological form a child renders a particular characters' perspective, building on existing frameworks from narratology and developmental psychology. In addition, we use tools and techniques from Natural Language Processing (NLP) to automatically parse the narratives and calculate various linguistic and syntactic properties. We also carry out more standardized psychological tests with a subset of the children who tell the stories in our database, to see how mindreading skills in clinical tests and narratives relate.

We currently have more than 700 stories of 442 children, additional metadata of about 150 children, about 11 hours of high-quality recordings, and much more. 

Any questions, suggestions, or ideas for collaboration? Contact us at kinderenalsverhalenvertellers@liacs.leidenuniv.nl