Date of Graduation
Over the past decade, researchers have become increasingly interested in children's developing "theories of mind," the attribution of thoughts and beliefs to both themselves and others, and the description of relations between mental states and actions. Although earlier work was focused on identifying the age at which children obtain such knowledge, more recently researchers have begun to investigate the mechanisms responsible for the development of a child's theory of mind. The purpose of the present study was to experimentally examine the importance of narrative as a mechanism through which children come to understand relations between people's thoughts and actions. Thirty-seven 3- to 4-year-old children participated in either an Intervention condition or a No Intervention control condition. All children were pretested on a language assessment and a battery of theory of mind measures, including three measures of false belief and two measures each of appearance/reality and deception. Working individually with an experimenter, the children received the language measure during one session and the battery of theory of mind measures during a second session. Children in the intervention condition participated in 12 to 15, 15- to 25-minute training sessions during which an experimenter read and discussed a story about either deception or the distinction between appearance and reality and conducted a related activity. After the completion of the intervention, all children participated in two posttesting sessions involving the same battery of theory of mind measures as at pretest. The first posttest occurred within 10 to 17 days and the second occurred within 27 to 41 days of the completion of the intervention. The findings partially supported the hypothesis that the intervention would impact children's performance on measures of false belief, deception, and appearance/reality. Although the mean theory of mind scores of children in the intervention and control conditions did not differ after training, a larger number of children who were exposed to the stories and discussions improved on false belief measures from pretest to the first posttest, as compared to those in the control condition. Furthermore, a significant interaction among age group, group (intervention vs. control), and time was suggestive of an effect of the intervention on the younger children's performance. Potential explanations for the these findings and suggestions for future directions of research in this area are discussed.
Ruther, Nicole Marie, "Increased exposure to specific types of narrative as a mechanism of change in theory of mind development." (1997). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 9692.