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The Developmental Origins of False-Belief Understanding


Understanding that individuals can be mistaken, or hold false beliefs, about the world is an important human ability that plays a vital role in social interactions. When and how does this ability develop? Traditional investigations using elicited-response tasks suggested that false-belief understanding did not emerge until at least age 4. However, more recent studies have shown that children demonstrate false-belief understanding much earlier when tested via other means. In the present article, I summarize recent evidence that a robust, flexible understanding of false belief emerges in infancy and discuss why older children fail elicited-response tasks despite their ability to represent beliefs.

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