True Belief Belies False Belief: Recent Findings of Competence in Infants and Limitations in 5-Year-Olds, and Implications for Theory of Mind Development
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Review of Philosophy and Psychology 2 (3):429-447 (2011)
False belief tasks have enjoyed a monopoly in the research on children’s development of a theory of mind. They have been granted this status because they promise to deliver an unambiguous assessment of children’s understanding of the representational nature of mental states. Their poor cousins, true belief tasks, have been relegated to occasional service as control tasks. That this is their only role has been due to the universal assumption that correct answers on true belief tasks are inherently ambiguous regarding the level of the child’s understanding of mental states. It has also been due to the universal assumption that nothing in the child’s developing theory of mind would lead to systematically incorrect answers on true belief tasks. We review new findings that 4- and 5-year-olds do err, systematically and profoundly, on the true belief versions of all the extant belief tasks. This reveals an intermediate level of understanding in the development of children’s theory of mind. Researchers have been unaware of this intermediate level because it produces correct answers in false belief tasks. A simple two-task battery—one true belief task and one false belief task—is sufficient to remove the ambiguity from each task. The new findings show that children do not acquire an understanding of beliefs, and hence a representational theory of mind, until after 6 years of age, or 2 years later than most developmental psychologists have concluded. This raises the question of how to interpret other new findings that infants are able to pass false belief tasks. We review these new infant studies, as well as recent studies on chimpanzees, in light of older children’s failure on true belief tasks, and end with some speculation about how all of these new findings might be reconciled
|Keywords||Theory of Mind Developmental Psychology Cognitive Development False belief task true belief task understanding belief autism spectrum disorders Philosophy of Mind Philosophy of Psychology Cognitive Science|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
Clark H. Barrett & R. Kurzban (2006). Modularity in Cognition: Framing the Debate. Psychological Review 113:628-647.
David Buttelmann, Malinda Carpenter & Michael Tomasello (2009). Eighteen-Month-Old Infants Show False Belief Understanding in an Active Helping Paradigm. Cognition 112 (2):337-342.
Noam Chomsky (1965). Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. The Mit Press.
Donald Davidson (1984). Inquiries Into Truth And Interpretation. Oxford University Press.
Daniel C. Dennett (1978). Beliefs About Beliefs [P&W, SR&B]. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 1 (4):568.
Citations of this work BETA
Anika Fiebich (2013). Mindreading with Ease? Fluency and Belief Reasoning in 4- to 5-Year-Olds. Synthese:1-16.
Vincent G. Berthiaume, Thomas R. Shultz & Kristine H. Onishi (2013). A Constructivist Connectionist Model of Transitions on False-Belief Tasks. Cognition 126 (3):441-458.
Similar books and articles
Marco Fenici (2011). What Does the False Belief Test Test? Phenomenology and Mind 1:197-207.
Paul Bloom (2000). Two Reasons to Abandon the False Belief Task as a Test of Theory of Mind. Cognition 77 (1):25-31.
James Dungan & Rebecca Saxe (2012). Matched False-Belief Performance During Verbal and Nonverbal Interference. Cognitive Science 36 (6):1148-1156.
Matthew van Cleave & Christopher Gauker (2010). Linguistic Practice and False-Belief Tasks. Mind and Language 25 (3):298-328.
Matthew Van Cleave (2010). Linguistic Practice and False-Belief Tasks. Mind & Language 25 (3):298-328.
Thomas Suddendorf & Claire Fletcher-Flinn (1997). Theory of Mind and the Origins of Divergent Thinking. Journal of Creative Behavior 31:169-179.
Josef Perner, Susan R. Leekam, Deborah Myers, Shalini Davis & Nicola Odgers, Misrepresentation and Referential Confusion: Children's Difficulty with False Beliefs and Outdated Photographs.
Marco Fenici (2012). Embodied Social Cognition and Embedded Theory of Mind. Biolinguistics 6 (3--47):276--307.
Liesbeth Flobbe, Rineke Verbrugge, Petra Hendriks & Irene Krämer (2008). Children's Application of Theory of Mind in Reasoning and Language. Journal of Logic, Language and Information 17 (4):417-442.
Masaharu Mizumoto (2011). A Theory of Knowledge and Belief Change - Formal and Experimental Perspectives. Hokkaido University Press.
Joseph Shieber (2009). Understanding Assertion: Lessons From the False Belief Task. Language & Communication 29 (1):47-60.
Mikhail Kissine (2012). Pragmatics, Cognitive Flexibility and Autism Spectrum Disorders. Mind and Language 27 (1):1-28.
Ian Apperly & Stephen Andrew Butterfill (2009). Do Humans Have Two Systems to Track Beliefs and Belief-Like States? Psychological Review; Psychological Review 116 (4):953.
Stephen Andrew Butterfill & Ian A. Apperly (2009). Do Humans Have Two Systems to Track Beliefs and Belief-Like States? Psychological Review 116 (4):953-970.
Added to index2011-08-01
Total downloads188 ( #2,853 of 1,096,549 )
Recent downloads (6 months)102 ( #369 of 1,096,549 )
How can I increase my downloads?