Pre-schoolers’ Reasoning in a False-Belief Test Involving Negative Desires

by John Bell

Institution: Victoria University of Wellington
Year: 2014
Keywords: Theory of mind; False belief; Preschoolers
Record ID: 1310895
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10063/3430


How can people balance competing demands for efficiency and cognitive flexibility in understanding others’ beliefs and desires? The idea that humans have two systems for mindreading, a flexible but cognitively demanding system and a minimal, efficient system which operates quickly but possesses signature blindspots was tested. Spontaneous anticipatory looking (AL) and direct verbal predictions of 3- and 4- year-olds were assessed. Children’s AL responses displayed a signature blindspot to an agent’s desire to avoid an object in an unexpected-transfer false belief task. A dissociation between 4-year-olds’ spontaneous AL responses and direct verbal predictions in an avoidance task further supports a 2-mindreading-systems account. The quick efficient mindreading system tracks an agent’s desire to approach but not to avoid an object.