Interpersonal influences on young children's understanding of mind
The thesis represents a critical examination of the theory-theory account of young children's understanding of mind, as explored through six empirical studies carried out on 661 children. Beginning with a critique of both experimental and naturalistic approaches to the study of mind, the thesis proceeds to establish a set of guiding research principles drawn from the philosophy of mind. Following a philosophical critique of the major psychological accounts of children's understanding of mind, it is suggested that the theory-theory comes closest to satisfying the proposed philosophical guidelines. The empirical studies reported suggest that children as young as three have a clear understanding of representations, as well as a developing theory of mind. It is proposed that certain patterns of interpersonal relatedness facilitate young children's understanding of both mental and nonmental representations. In particular, it was found that an experimenter's reference to a deceptive interaction facilitated young children's understanding of false belief. The fluent knowledge of a second language was similarly found to facilitate young children's ability to remember their own previous false belief, as well as their ability to understand the appearance-reality distinction. Although the present research is founded on the use of the false belief paradigm, a critical discussion of its limitations suggests that developmentalists need to explore the interpersonal cooperation surrounding young children's developing theories of mind. It is also argued that the false belief paradigm can no longer be the dominant research paradigm if progress is to continue to be made in this field. It is suggested that future research has much to gain by adopting the principle that an understanding of mind is primarily an understanding of interpersonal relations.