CE28 - Cognition, éducation, formation

The neuro-cognitive foundations of epistemic trust – FoundTrust

Submission summary

Background. The disposition to believe what others communicate, or epistemic trust, plays a central role in humans’ learning and cognitive development. It is crucial for the transmission of scientific, historical, technical, moral or religious beliefs. It also lies at the heart of schooling, by supporting the transmission of knowledge from teachers to pupils. This project aims at determining the foundations of this form of trust, uniquely developed in humans, during infancy.

Methods. To address this issue, the project ‘FoundTrust’ will use a combination of electrophysiological and behavioural methods (eye-tracker, touch screen, EEG), associated with rigorous and systematic observations of children’s linguistic environment. The project will test key populations (twins, premature and full-term infants) to tease apart the contribution of pre-programmed maturation and of environmental factors in shaping trust. Three complementary work packages will investigate the (i) maturational and (ii) environmental bases of trust in communication during infancy (Work Package 1, henceforth WP1), (iii) its motivational origins, and its relation to external rewards (WP2) and (iv) how it develops in adverse conditions, for children with low birth weight, and for children whose exposure to linguistic input is reduced (WP3). Altogether, the project will illuminate the sources of humans’ reliance on communication, and its unique role in learning.

Team. This project, coordinated by Olivier Mascaro, will capitalise on the unique expertise of a set of complementary collaborators:
Psycho-linguists (Thierry Nazzi, expert on linguistic development in infancy, and Pia Rämä, expert on lexical-semantic processing),
Social scientists with a strong specialisation on evolution and social cognition (Hugo Mercier, expert on the evaluation of communicated information, and Coralie Chevallier, expert on the effect of environmental harshness on social trust).
A neuroscientist (E. Parise, expert on trust and communication in infants, and on infant EEG)
A cognitive scientist with a background in social sciences and linguistics (O. Mascaro, expert on selective trust and socio-cognitive development in young children)

Expected output. The project will have important consequences at the social level, through its focus on one of the most central sources of human learning. It will provide critical evidence about three key vulnerability factors of central societal importance: prematurity, low birth weight, and reduced linguistic input. It will also provide important information about the role of rewards in shaping infants’ motivation to learn from others. At the scientific level this project will have far-reaching consequences for our understanding of cognition and learning by casting light upon the processes supporting humans’ uniquely developed disposition to learn from others.

Project coordination


The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


Institut Jean-Nicod
CIMeC CIMeC - Center for Mind/Brain Sciences

Help of the ANR 274,052 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: November 2021 - 48 Months

Useful links

Explorez notre base de projets financés



ANR makes available its datasets on funded projects, click here to find more.

Sign up for the latest news:
Subscribe to our newsletter