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Belief attribution in deaf and hearing infants

Journal article
Authors Marek Meristo
G. Morgan
A. Geraci
L. Iozzi
Erland Hjelmquist
L. Surian
M. Siegal
Published in Developmental Science
Volume 15
Issue 5
Pages 633-640
ISSN 1363-755X
Publication year 2012
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 633-640
Language en
Keywords theory-of-mind, false-belief, executive function, sign-language, mental, states, children, communication, others, preschoolers, mothers
Subject categories Psychology


Based on anticipatory looking and reactions to violations of expected events, infants have been credited with theory of mind (ToM) knowledge that a persons search behaviour for an object will be guided by true or false beliefs about the objects location. However, little is known about the preconditions for looking patterns consistent with belief attribution in infants. In this study, we compared the performance of 17- to 26-month-olds on anticipatory looking in ToM tasks. The infants were either hearing or were deaf from hearing families and thus delayed in communicative experience gained from access to language and conversational input. Hearing infants significantly outperformed their deaf counterparts in anticipating the search actions of a cartoon character that held a false belief about a target-object location. By contrast, the performance of the two groups in a true belief condition did not differ significantly. These findings suggest for the first time that access to language and conversational input contributes to early ToM reasoning.

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