In this study, children who initially failed standard measures of false-belief were randomly assigned to one of six picture book training conditions.The picture books were critically manipulated so that the images depicted either highly similar or dissimilar contexts of false belief.Despite a proliferation of federal policies suggesting that school readiness is a key component of early childhood education, readiness is still primarily defined by outcomes rather than strategies.
Critically, these results suggest that even when assessed implicitly, children’s reasoning about mental states is flexible and can be influenced by contextual factors such as linguistic input.
I have also examined how variability of linguistic and contextual input might influence the effects of theory of mind training in 3- to 4-year-old children (San Juan, Larsen, & Ganea, in prep).
The majority of research has focused on belief, specifically false belief, demonstrating an age-related improvement between 3 and 5 years, However, studying children's understanding of desire, as well as the relation between desire and belief, is important for forming an adequate picture of theory of mind development and determining the relation between children's theory of mind and their actual social understanding.
A series of studies investigated two aspects of the role of desire in children's theory of mind.
Early childhood education|Developmental psychology|Cognitive psychology Woodburn, Elizabeth M, "The social aspects of learning: The role of theory of mind, children's understanding of teaching and social -behavioral competence in school readiness" (2008).
Children's theory of mind consists of two core mental states: belief and desire.
The studies tested the claim that young children fail false belief because they base their belief judgments on desire inferences (Bartsch & Wellman, 1995; Fodor, 1992).
Children of 3-, 4-, and 5-years were presented with standard false belief and representational change tasks, and were asked about the agent's desire and belief.
Results indicated that training lead to significant improvements in children’s implicit eye gaze responses, but only for groups that had been trained with mental state verbs.
Although previous research has demonstrated that linguistic training can effectively promote children’s explicit reasoning about mental states (e.g., Lohmann & Tomasello, 2003), these findings are the first to demonstrate that exposure to mental state language can also improve the accuracy of children’s implicit non-verbal responses.