Theory of mind and rule-based reasoning

Author: Frye, D.; Zelazo, P.D.; Palfai, T.

Description: The hypothesis is tested that during the preschool period a particular form of reasoning is applied to theory of mind and a set of problems that do not require the understanding of mental states. Three experiments each provided a different piece of support for this hypothesis. Experiment 1 found similar age-related changes between three standard theory-of-mind tasks (false belief, appearance-reality and representational change) and two specially designed nonmental state tasks (rule-based card sorting and physical causality). Experiment 2 demonstrated that 3-year-olds’ poor performance on card sorting occurred across different pairs of dimensions (color-size, shape-number, size-number, color-shape) just as it does across different pairs of perspectives in the theory-of-mind tasks (self-other, looks like-is, before-after), and that sorting performance was related to theory of mind with age partialled. Experiment 3 showed that theory of mind was related to a specific complexity of sorting—sorting by one of two dimensions and not sorting by one dimension or two dimensions simultaneously. The results indicate that advances in theory of mind, card sorting, and causality between 3 and 5 years of age depend on being able to switch judgments across conditions and that reasoning by embedded rules could account for these changes.

Subject Headings: Mind; Reasoning; Dimensions; Card sorting

Keywords: Theory of mind and rule-based reasoning

Publication year: 1995

Journal or book title: Cognitive Development

Volume: 10

Issue: 4

Pages: 483-527

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Type: Journal Article

Serial number: 2770