False belief test

Posted on August 14, 2008


I heard about the false belief test before my daughter was born. It seems right that it ought to be possible to test at what point children are able to understand the concept of someone else having false beliefs. However, having now tried the test out a couple of times on my daughter, I feel somewhat uneasy about whether I have managed to test that very question. She is almost four years old, the normal time at which children ‘pass’ the test, and has failed both times I’ve tried the test on her. So, she’s fairly normal. Yet, at least in the unprofessional way that I ran the test, I am not at all sure that her failure was due to the lack of her comprehension about another person’s beliefs and not to her failure to understand the instruction. The second possibility would explain just as well, it seems to me, why children are around four years before they do manage the task. Of course, I am hardly the first person to raise such doubts about the significance of the false belief test but actually seeing how my daughter reacts to being asked to play this ‘game’ makes the worry ‘live’ for me. If it keeps bothering me I’ll take the logical next step and read up on the professional literature to see how researchers have tried to deal with possible confounds. Either that or I’ll buy a developmental psychologist a beer and ask.

Posted in: Psychology