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Proc Biol Sci. 2013 Jan 30;280(1755):20122654. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.2654. Print 2013 Mar 22.

Early false-belief understanding in traditional non-Western societies.

Author information

1
UCLA Department of Anthropology, 341 Haines Hall Box 951552, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA. hclarkbarrett@gmail.com

Abstract

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.

PMID:
23363628
PMCID:
PMC3574387
DOI:
10.1098/rspb.2012.2654
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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