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Early Deception and the Child's Theory of Mind: False Trails and Genuine Markers

Beate Sodian, Catherine Taylor, Paul L. Harris and Josef Perner
Child Development
Vol. 62, No. 3 (Jun., 1991), pp. 468-483
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1131124
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1131124
Page Count: 16
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Early Deception and the Child's Theory of Mind: False Trails and Genuine Markers
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Abstract

The ability to understand false beliefs is critical to a concept of mind. Chandler, Fritz, and Hala challenge recent claims that this ability emerges only at around 4 years of age. They report that 2- and 3-year-olds remove true trails and lay false ones to mislead someone about the location of a hidden object. Experiment 1 confirmed that 2- and 3-year-olds produce apparently deceptive ploys, but they produce them less often than 4-year-olds, require prompting, and rarely anticipate their impact on the victim's beliefs or search. In addition, Experiment 2 showed that 3-year-olds produce deceptive and informative ploys indiscriminately, whether asked to mislead a competitor or inform a collaborator. By contrast, 4-year-olds act selectively. The results support earlier claims that an understanding of false beliefs and deceptive ploys emerges at around 4 years of age. 2- and 3-year-olds can be led to produce such ploys but show no clear understanding of their effect.

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