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: How one-year-olds can recognize beliefs of others

More information: pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/11/21/0956797612447819.abstract

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

Feeling bad has academic benefits, research says

November 30, 2016

For some, the start of December marks the beginning of the most wonderful time of the year. But for most university students, the coming weeks mean final exams, mounting stress and negative moods.

Preschoolers' expectations shape how they interpret speech

November 30, 2016

When we listen to people speak, we aren't just hearing the sounds they're making, we're also actively trying to infer what they're going to say. Someone might misspeak, forget a word, or be drowned out by background noise, ...

0 comments

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.