Children's understanding of promising, lying, and false belief

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Abstract

Understanding promising and lying requires an understanding of intention and the ability to interpret mental states. The author examined (a) the extent to which 4- to 6-year-olds focus on the sincerity of the speaker's intention when the 4- to 6-year-olds make judgments about promises and lies and (b) whether false-belief reasoning skills are related to understanding promising and lying. Participants watched videotaped stories and made promise and lie judgments from their own perspective and from the listener-character's perspective. Children also completed false-belief reasoning tasks. Older children made more correct promise judgments from both perspectives. All children made correct lie judgments from the listener's perspective. The author found that 1st-order false-belief reasoning was related to making judgments from the participant's perspective; 2nd-order false-belief reasoning was related to making judgments from the listener-character's perspective. Results suggest that children's understanding of promising and lying moves from a focus on outcome toward a focus on the belief that each utterance is designed to create.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-322
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of General Psychology
Volume135
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2008

Keywords

  • Language development
  • Pragmatic development
  • Theory of mind

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