Early False-Belief Understanding in Three Traditional Non-Western Societies
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
PubMed Central® ID
The psychological capacity to recognize that others may hold and act on false beliefs has been proposed to reflect an evolved, species-typical adaptation for social reasoning in humans; however, controversy surrounds the developmental timing and universality of this trait. Cross-cultural studies using elicited-response tasks indicate that the age at which children begin to understand false beliefs ranges from 4 to 7 years across societies, whereas studies using spontaneous-response tasks with Western children indicate that false-belief understanding emerges much earlier, consistent with the hypothesis that false-belief understanding is a psychological adaptation that is universally present in early childhood. To evaluate this hypothesis, we used three spontaneous-response tasks that have revealed early false-belief understanding in the West to test young children in three traditional, non-Western societies: Salar (China), Shuar/Colono (Ecuador) and Yasawan (Fiji). Results were comparable with those from the West, supporting the hypothesis that false-belief understanding reflects an adaptation that is universally present early in development.
Cognition, evolution, behavior, theory of mind, evolutionary psychology, false-belief understanding, social cognition, human universals, child development, cross-cultural comparison
Barrett, H. Clark; Broesch, Tanya; Scott, Rose M.; He, Zijing; Baillargeon, Renée; Wu, Di; Bolz, Matthias; Henrich, Joseph; Setoh, Peipei; Wang, Jianxin; and Laurence, Stephen, "Early False-Belief Understanding in Three Traditional Non-Western Societies" (2013). Psychology Faculty Publications. 168.