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J Exp Child Psychol. 2014 Apr;120:73-86. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2013.11.007. Epub 2013 Dec 31.

How do preschoolers' sharing behaviors relate to their theory of mind understanding?

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Department of Psychology, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China.
Department of Psychology, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China. Electronic address:


This study aimed to explore the development of resource sharing in preschoolers and its relationship with children's theory of mind (ToM) understanding. A total of 74 2- to 4-year-old Chinese children participated in three tasks with toys that could be shared with a puppet (animated by a female experimenter). In each sharing task, the puppet communicated her desire for children's items with a series of progressively more explicit cues. Results showed that 2- and 3-year-olds relied on more explicit communicative cues to share resources with others, whereas 4-year-olds shared more spontaneously. In addition, children's ToM understanding was positively correlated with their sharing behavior independent of their age. Specifically, children who had acquired the ability to understand that people could have different beliefs about the same thing and that people were ignorant if they had not seen the fact shared more spontaneously and shared more items with their playmate than children who had not acquired these two abilities. Findings suggest that preschoolers' sharing behavior is enhanced by their ToM understanding and explicit communicative cues provided by the playmate.


Diverse beliefs; Knowledge access; Preschoolers; Scaffolding; Sharing behavior; Theory of mind understanding

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