Parent–child talk and children's understanding of beliefs and emotions

Cognition and Emotion 21 (3):480-494 (2007)
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Abstract

We examined the development of children's understanding of beliefs and emotions in relation to parental talk about the psychological world. We considered the relations between parent–child talk about the emotions of characters depicted in a picture book, false belief understanding and emotion understanding. Seventy-eight primarily Caucasian and middle-class parents and their 3- to 5-year-old children participated (half boys and half girls). The emotions talked about were relatively simple, but the complexity of the situation varied in terms of whether or not an understanding of beliefs was required to understand the emotion. Talk about the belief-dependent aspects of the emotions of picture book characters predicted children's false belief understanding, whereas talk about non-belief-dependent aspects of these emotions predicted children's emotion understanding. We argue that these data suggest that the development of children's understanding of beliefs and emotions is intertwined with learning to talk about the psychological world.

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