Tokyo Gakugei University Centre for International Education


We study how children learn from others, and how they communicate with others.

Our themes include:

Children’s Selective Social Learning

The ability to learn from other people is very special to human beings. Non-human animals may learn from environment by their own observation, but it is only human beings that can learn from what other people said or demonstrated. Learning of one’s native language is an example of early social learning. Socially-transmitted information, however, is not always true. So as an effective learner, we need to assess the truthfulness of the information. One way of doing so is to assess the reliability, or the trustworthiness, of the informant. The goal of our studies is to understand how the ability to assess the informant’s reliability develops between 2- and 6-years of age.

Related publications:
  • Matsui, T., Yamamoto, T., Miura, Y., McCagg, P. (2016). Young children's early sensitivity to linguistic indications of speaker certainty in their selective word learning. Lingua, 175-6, 83-96.
  • Matsui, T., Yamamoto, T., & McCagg, P. (2006). On the role of language in children’s early understanding of others as epistemic beings. Cognitive Development, 21, 158-173.

Cross-Linguistic and Cross-Cultural Comparison of Social Development

Important milestones of social development are known to be achieved around the same time regardless of a child’s nationality, language and culture. It is also known, however, that social development is closely related to the development of language. Therefore, it is quite possible that children’s social development is influenced by the structure or the usage of their particular native language in communication, and the differences among the structure and the usage of the languages may yield differences in social development. The goal of our investigation is to test this possibility by comparing development of social cognition cross-linguistically.

Related publications:
  • Mercier, H., Sudo, M., Castelain, T., Stéphane, B., & Matsui, T. (2017). Japanese preschoolers’ evaluation of circular and non-circular arguments. European Journal of Developmental Psychology.
  • Fitenva, S. & Matsui, T. (2015) The Emergence and Development of Language across Cultures. Jensen, L.A. (ed), The Oxford Handbook of Human Development and Culture. Oxford University Press.
  • Matsui, T., Rakoczy, H., Miura, Y., & Tomasello, M. (2009). Understanding of speaker certainty and false-belief reasoning: A comparison of Japanese and German preschoolers. Developmental Science 12, 602-613.

Social and Cognitive Development of Bilingual Children

Growing up in multilingual environment affects not only children’s linguistic development, but also their social and cognitive development. For example, studies have shown that bilingual experience enhances children’s executive function. It is often difficult for children, however, to be successful in learning multiple languages equally well. Moreover, if children repeatedly move from one multilingual environment to another, it becomes much harder for them to acquire any language proficiently. The goal of our study is to investigate how children’s varied multilingual development influence their social and cognitive development. We are also interested in how multilingual experience among children with developmental disorder affects their social and cognitive development.

  • Li, H., Oi, M., Gondo, K., & Matsui, T. (In press). How does being bilingual influence children with autism in the aspect of executive functions and social and communicative competence? Journal of Brain Science, 49.

Linguistic and Communicative Development of Children with ASD

We know little about linguistic and communicative development of children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). While some of them achieve high-level of proficiency, others develop little linguistic capability. Those who are linguistically talented, however, typically have difficulty with understanding subtle nuances of messages in everyday conversation. The goal of our study is to find out how linguistic and communicative ability of Japanese children with ASD develop between the ages of 3 and 12.

  • Oi, M., Fujino, H., Tsukidate, N., Kamio, Y., Kikuchi, M., Yoshimura, Y., Hasegawa, C., Gondo, K., & Matsui, T. (In Press). Quantitative communicative impairments ascertained in a large national survey of Japanese children. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Neural Mechanisms for Comprehension of Sarcastic Utterances

When hearing sarcastic utterances, we often notice their prominent prosodic characteristics. Such prosodic characteristics are an essential clue to understand that the speaker intended the utterance to be sarcastic. The neural mechanism for appreciating sarcastic prosody, however, is not well-known. Our aim is to understand neural mechanisms for processing prosodic information in sarcasm comprehension.

Related publications:
  • Matsui, T., Nakamura, T, Utsumi, A., Sasaki, A.T., Koike, T., Yoshida, Y., Harada, T., Tanabe, H.C., & Sadato, N. (2016). The role of prosody and context in sarcasm comprehension: Behavioral and fMRI evidence. Neuropsychologia, 87, 74-84.