Replications of implicit theory of mind tasks with varying representational demands

TitleReplications of implicit theory of mind tasks with varying representational demands
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsPowell, L. J., Hobbs K., Bardis A., Carey S., & Saxe R.
JournalCognitive Development
Pagination40 - 50
Date Published04/2017

We attempted to reproduce three tests of theory of mind in infants using implicit tasks that have been previously reported in the literature. These efforts were intended as initial steps in larger projects aimed at building on past research to better understand infants’ theory of mind capacities and their relationship to preschoolers’ explicit theory of mind. One task fully replicated evidence of 2-year-old children’s sensitivity to others’ ignorance. The results of another task testing for similar capacities in 18-month-old infants also elicited behavior similar to the original findings, although in that case we only conducted one of two conditions critical for demonstrating that performance depended upon theory of mind capacities. In contrast, our violation of expectation tasks failed to reproduce evidence that, by 18 months of age, infants form specific expectations about the actions an agent will engage in on the basis of false beliefs. Instead, looking times were consistent with infants having no clear prediction about the agent's actions under conditions of false belief. We discuss factors that might account for our failure to reproduce the previously reported violation of expectation results on which we were attempting to build. However, we also discuss the consistency of our data with other findings and hypotheses regarding early-developing theory of mind, and consider the possibility that they reflect the veridical abilities of 18-month-old infants, who may track others’ knowledge and ignorance but may not consistently represent the contents of others’ beliefs.

Short TitleCognitive Development