Children’s Understanding of First- and Second-Order False Beliefs in One Narrative

Abstract

The results of false belief tasks show that children acquire second-order false beliefs (B thinks that A thinks X is Y) a few years later than first-order false beliefs (A thinks X is Y) (ex. Hayashi, 2002). Although different tasks are used to investigate these two false beliefs, it was unclear whether the story of the second-order false belief task is difficult or the second-order false belief itself is difficult. Therefore, previous studies have focused on creating simple stories for second-order false belief tasks to equalize their complexity level with that of first-order false belief tasks (ex. Sullivan, Zaitchik, & Tager-Flusberg, 1994). But when making the story simple, they also made the structure of the false belief easier. Accordingly, we created two compound tasks, the "fallen ball task" and the "transferred contents task", which examine both first- and second-order false beliefs of one protagonist in a simple narrative. The study included 67 children aged four-and-a-half to eight-and-a-half years. In both tasks, no child could answer second-order false belief questions, although six-year-olds were shown to answer them in the simple story of Hayashi's (2002) task. Thus, we concluded that complexity of the story does not affect children's theory of mind but the structure of the belief does. Moreover, we found that most children who acquired first-order false belief use it when answering the second-order false belief question. We believe that the compound tasks will lead to a new discussion in future studies on theory of mind.



Author Information
Kumiko Matsumoto, Ochanomizu University, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: ACP2013
Stream: Psychology

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