Representation and Theory of Mind Development

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Abstract

This longitudinal study investigated the relation between children's early use of symbols and their later understanding of representation and metarepresentation. The performance of 64 children on DeLoache's (1987) scale model task was measured at 30, 36, and 42 months, and their false belief understanding was measured at 42 and 48 months. Language and executive function measures were taken at each time point. Scale model performance was related to concurrent and subsequent false belief understanding, and scale model performance both predicted and was predicted by language across time. Language predicted false belief within and across time, and with increasing age it mediated the relation between success on the scale model task and false belief understanding. Although executive function was related to performance on scale model and theory of mind tasks, it did not mediate the relation between these. This study provides evidence suggesting that symbolic functioning, language, and theory of mind may form part of a single skill set underlying symbolic representation.

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