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Theory of mind concepts in children's literature


This study examined whether books that are typically read to preschool children contain theory of mind concepts. The parents of 47 preschool children recorded books read by or to their child over a one-week period. The books were analyzed for theory of mind content. It was found that 78% of the books contained internal state language, 34% contained false beliefs, and 43% contained personality descriptors. Thus, theory of mind concepts appear to be an integral part of the literature read to preschool children. These results are discussed in light of recent work on individual differences in theory of mind development.

Corresponding author
Department of Psychology, Bryn Mawr College, 101 North Merion Avenue, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010. Email:
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J. Dunn , J. Brown , C. Slomkowski , C. Tesla , & L. Youngblade (1991). Young children's understanding of other people's feelings and beliefs: Individual differences and their antecedents. Child Development, 62. 13521366.

J. M. Jenkins , & J. W. Astington (1996). Cognitive factors and family structure associated withtheory of mind development in young children. Developmental Psychology, 32, 7078.

C. Lewis , N. H. Freeman , C. Kyriakidou , K. Maridaki-Kassotaki , & D. M. Berridge (1997). Social influences on false belief access: Specific sibling influences or general apprenticeship. Child Development, 67, 29302947.

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L. M. Youngblade , & J. Dunn (1995). Individual differences in young children's pretend play with mother and sibling: Links to relationships and understanding of other people's feelings and beliefs. Child Development, 66, 14721492.

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Applied Psycholinguistics
  • ISSN: 0142-7164
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