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Developmental Continuity in Theory of Mind: Speed and Accuracy of BeliefDesire Reasoning in Children and Adults

Summary: Developmental Continuity in Theory of Mind: Speed and
Accuracy of Belief­Desire Reasoning in Children and Adults
Ian A. Apperly
University of Birmingham, UK
Frances Warren
Reading University, UK
Benjamin J. Andrews, Jay Grant, and Sophie Todd
University of Birmingham, UK
On belief­desire reasoning tasks, children first pass tasks involving true belief before those involving false
belief, and tasks involving positive desire before those involving negative desire. The current study examined
belief­desire reasoning in participants old enough to pass all such tasks. Eighty-three 6- to 11-year-olds and
20 adult participants completed simple, computer-based tests of belief­desire reasoning, which recorded
response times as well as error rates. Both measures suggested that, like young children, older children and
adults find it more difficult to reason about false belief and negative desires than true beliefs and positive
desires. It is argued that this developmental continuity is most consistent with either executive competence or
executive performance accounts of the development of belief­desire reasoning.
Much research in the last 30 years has examined
when and whether young children and nonhu-
man animals have a ``theory of mind'' (ToM)
(e.g., Call & Tomasello, 2008; Doherty, 2008; Pre-


Source: Apperly, Ian - School of Psychology, University of Birmingham


Collections: Biology and Medicine