How to pass the false-belief task before your fourth birthday

December 14, 2012

As social creatures, humans must constantly monitor each other's intentions, beliefs, desires, and other mental states. A particularly important social skill is the ability to take another person's perspective and understand what the person knows, even when that knowledge may ultimately be false. Past research has shown that before the age of 4, children fail to pass standard tasks designed to measure false belief; however, new research has shown that very young children can pass nonverbal versions of false-belief tasks.

Paula Rubio-Fernández of University College London and Bart Geurts of the University of Nijmegen tested 3-year-old children using a standard false-belief task called the Smarties task and using an altered, more streamlined version of the false-belief task called the Duplo task. The Duplo task was designed to minimize disruptions in children's perspective-taking.

The researchers found that while only 22.7% of children passed the Smarties task, 80% of children passed the Duplo task. This suggests that 3-year-old children are able to pass a verbal false-belief task if they are able to keep track of the protagonist's perspective.

Explore further: Babies understand thought process of others at 10 months old, research finds

More information:

Related Stories

How one-year-olds can recognize beliefs of others

February 23, 2012

The question as to when children become able to attribute mental states such as beliefs and desires to others is answered differently by different tests. A new model by Bochum's philosophers now integrates seemingly contradictory ...

Thinking about others is not child's play: brain study

August 9, 2012

When you try to read other people’s thoughts, or guess why they are behaving a certain way, you employ a skill known as theory of mind. This skill, as measured by false-belief tests, takes time to develop: In children, ...

Recommended for you

Men more likely to be seen as 'creative thinkers'

September 28, 2015

People tend to associate the ability to think creatively with stereotypical masculine qualities, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The findings ...

Babies time their smiles to make their moms smile in return

September 23, 2015

Why do babies smile when they interact with their parents? Could their smiles have a purpose? In the Sept. 23 issue of PLOS ONE, a team of computer scientists, roboticists and developmental psychologists confirm what most ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.