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Child Dev. 1988 Feb;59(1):26-37.

Children's understanding of representational change and its relation to the understanding of false belief and the appearance-reality distinction.

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Scarborough College, University of Toronto.


This research concerns the development of children's understanding of representational change and its relation to other cognitive developments. Children were shown deceptive objects, and the true nature of the objects was then revealed. Children were then asked what they thought the object was when they first saw it, testing their understanding of representational change; what another child would think the object was, testing their understanding of false belief; and what the object looked like and really was, testing their understanding of the appearance-reality distinction. Most 3-year-olds answered the representational change question incorrectly. Most 5-year-olds did not make this error. Children's performance on the representational change question was poorer than their performance on the false-belief question. There were correlations between performance on all 3 tasks. Apparently children begin to be able to consider alternative representations of the same object at about age 4.

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