Analogical comparison aids false belief understanding in preschoolers

Abstract

Analogical comparison has been found to promote learning across many conceptual domains. Here, we ask whether this mechanism can facilitate children’s understanding of others’ mental states. In Experiment 1, children carried out comparisons between characters’ thoughts and reality and between characters with true beliefs vs. those with false beliefs. Children given this training improved from pre- to post-test. In Experiment 2, we used a more minimal comparison technique. Children saw a series of three stories involving true or false beliefs. There were two between-subjects conditions that either facilitated (High Alignability) or impeded (Low Alignability) comparison across stories. We found that children made more gains from pre- to post-test in the High Alignability condition than in the Low Alignability condition. We also found effects of production of mental state verbs, as assessed in an Elicitation Task. These results provide evidence for the role of analogical comparison in theory of mind development.


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