"New developmental psychology work has upended decades of research suggesting
that children as young as 4 years old possess theory of mind.
Having theory of mind means understanding how others think, including the
ability of someone else to have a false belief.
In a famous theory-of-mind experiment that includes false beliefs, children
watch scenes involving a character named Maxi, his mother and a chocolate bar.
Maxi places the chocolate bar into a blue box and then leaves. Unbeknownst to
Maxi, his mother shows up and moves the chocolate from the blue box into a
green box. After Maxi's mother leaves, Maxi returns and then the child is asked
where Maxi will look for the chocolate.
By 4 years old, children can answer correctly: Maxi will look in the blue box.
But do young children really understand that because Maxi did not see his
mother move the chocolate, he falsely believes it is still in the blue box?
The answer is no, according to William Fabricius, associate professor of
psychology at Arizona State University. For more than a decade, Fabricius and
his collaborators have carried out new experiments and have also analyzed
previous experiments that collectively show children do not actually understand
false beliefs until they are 6 or 7 years old. This work was published in
Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development
on September 21.
"When we overestimate what young children understand about the mind, and thus
how others think, we can expect too much from them in terms of social behavior
or performance in school," said Fabricius, who is the lead author of the
Via a limited share.
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics