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J Exp Child Psychol. 2007 May;97(1):44-60. Epub 2007 Feb 20.

Second-order beliefs about intention and children's attributions of sociomoral judgment.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Predicting how another person will evaluate the intention underlying an action involves consideration of second-order mental states. Children (ages 5-10 years) and college students (N=105) predicted an observer's belief about an actor's intention and evaluated the actor from both their own perspectives and the perspective of the observer. Younger children were more likely than older children and adults to attribute a belief to the observer that mismatched the actor's prior intention. Attributed beliefs about intention were more likely to match negative prior intentions than to match positive prior intentions and were also more likely to match prior intentions when the observer knew the actor's prior intention than when the observer did not know the actor's prior intention. The judgments attributed to the observer were based on the beliefs about intention attributed to the observer, showing use of second-order mental states to infer another's sociomoral judgments.

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