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The cost of thinking about false beliefs: Evidence from adults' performance

Summary: The cost of thinking about false beliefs:
Evidence from adults' performance
on a non-inferential theory of mind task
Ian A. Apperly *, Elisa Back, Dana Samson, Lisa France
School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK
Received 7 February 2007; accepted 12 May 2007
Much of what we know about other people's beliefs comes non-inferentially from what
people tell us. Developmental research suggests that 3-year-olds have difficulty processing such
information: they suffer interference from their own knowledge of reality when told about
someone's false belief (e.g., [Wellman, H. M., & Bartsch, K. (1988). Young children's reason-
ing about beliefs. Cognition, 30, 239277.]). The current studies examined for the first time
whether similar interference occurs in adult participants. In two experiments participants read
sentences describing the real colour of an object and a man's false belief about the colour of
the object, then judged the accuracy of a picture probe depicting either reality or the man's
belief. Processing costs for picture probes depicting reality were consistently greater in this
false belief condition than in a matched control condition in which the sentences described
the real colour of one object and a man's unrelated belief about the colour of another object.
A similar pattern was observed for picture probes depicting the man's belief in most cases.
Processing costs were not sensitive to the time available for encoding the information pre-


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


Collections: Biology and Medicine