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Do you see what I mean? Shared reference in non-native signing deaf children.

Journal article
Authors Kerstin Watson Falkman
Erland Hjelmquist
Published in Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education,
Volume 11
Pages 410-420
ISSN 1081-4159
Publication year 2006
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 410-420
Language en
Keywords deaf children, mentalizing, referential communication, mind, communication, message
Subject categories Nursing, Psychology, Pedagogy


A group of non-native, early signing deaf children between the ages of 7 and 11 years were tested on a referential communication task. A group of hearing children matched for sex and mental and chronological age were also included in the study. The aim was to study the deaf children's ability to take another persons perspective in a task that resembled a real-life communicative situation to a higher extent than the standard theory of mind (ToM) tasks. A further aim was to investigate the possible importance of a number of background variables such as mental and chronological age, working memory, and false-belief attribution. Results show that the hearing children outperformed the deaf children on the referential communication task and that results were highly correlated with both chronological and mental age, as well as with working memory. There was a positive, but not significant, correlation between false belief and success on the referential communication task. This is an indication that the two tasks tap different abilities and that false belief might be necessary, but not sufficient in order to be skilled in the art of referential communication. The possible role of working memory in the referential communication task is also discussed. The results support the hypothesis of the importance of early talk about mental states for the later development of ToM abilities.

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