Date Thesis Awarded

4-2019

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)

Department

Psychology

Advisor

Kate Harrigan

Committee Members

Peter Vishton

Anya Lunden

Abstract

Theory of mind is a cognitive skill that allows us to recognize that others hold representations of the world that are separate from our own. This capability is measured in children through the false belief task, which most cannot successfully complete until age four. This finding has been taken to mean that children younger than four have difficulty reasoning about the perspectives of other people, a surprising claim given that at age two they begin to partake in pretend play that appears to involve adopting the persona of invented characters. The current study investigated whether pretend play could act as a vehicle of theory of mind development leading to improved false belief performance in a short-term setting. Participants were 53 preschoolers (27 male, 26 female, MAGE = 4.13 years) who were randomly assigned to one of three play conditions. Children in the Pretend Play—False Belief condition participated in a pretend play session involving both perspective-taking and false belief scenarios, children in the Pretend Play—No False Belief condition participated in a pretend play session involving perspective-taking only, and children in the Control condition participated in guided non-pretend play. Participants in all conditions were administered a false belief post-test consisting of a change of location and appearance-reality task. Results did not produce a significant main effect of condition on false belief performance (X 2= 2.383, p = .304). Additional work is needed to determine whether pretend play can act as a vehicle of theory of mind development in other contexts.

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