Early false-belief understanding in traditional non-Western societies
Barrett, H. Clark
Scott, Rose M.
Date of Issue2013
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
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.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B
© 2013 The Authors. This is the author created version of a work that has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, published by The Royal Society on behalf of The Authors. It incorporates referee’s comments but changes resulting from the publishing process, such as copyediting, structural formatting, may not be reflected in this document. The published version is available at: [Article DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2012.2654].