Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Psychol Sci. 2009 Jul;20(7):805-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02377.x. Epub 2009 Jun 8.

Language promotes false-belief understanding: evidence from learners of a new sign language.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychology, Wellesley College, 106 Central St., SCI480, Wellesley, MA 02841, USA.


Developmental studies have identified a strong correlation in the timing of language development and false-belief understanding. However, the nature of this relationship remains unresolved. Does language promote false-belief understanding, or does it merely facilitate development that could occur independently, albeit on a delayed timescale? We examined language development and false-belief understanding in deaf learners of an emerging sign language in Nicaragua. The use of mental-state vocabulary and performance on a low-verbal false-belief task were assessed, over 2 years, in adult and adolescent users of Nicaraguan Sign Language. Results show that those adults who acquired a nascent form of the language during childhood produce few mental-state signs and fail to exhibit false-belief understanding. Furthermore, those whose language developed over the period of the study correspondingly developed in false-belief understanding. Thus, language learning, over and above social experience, drives the development of a mature theory of mind.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk