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Conceptual Coherence in the Child's Theory of Mind: Training Children to Understand Belief

Virginia Slaughter and Alison Gopnik
Child Development
Vol. 67, No. 6 (Dec., 1996), pp. 2967-2988
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1131762
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1131762
Page Count: 22
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Conceptual Coherence in the Child's Theory of Mind: Training Children to Understand Belief
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Abstract

Intuitive theories are defined as coherently interrelated systems of concepts that generate explanations and predictions in a particular domain of experience. 2 studies tested whether the child's theory of mind can be characterized as an intuitive theory. In Study 1, 3-year-old children who did not pass a false belief pretest were trained in 2 groups: (1) on the concept of belief, or (2) on the related concepts of desire and perception. Training took place over 2 weeks, with children given mental state tasks and receiving feedback according to their performance. Both training groups showed improved false belief performance on the posttest, compared to a control group trained on number conservation. This result is interpreted as demonstrating coherence in the child's theory of mind. In Study 2, these findings were repeated and expanded: training on belief as well as training on desire and perception resulted in improved performance on a variety of standard theory of mind posttests. Results are discussed with respect to competing theories of children's intuitive psychological knowledge.

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