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J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 1998 Sep;39(6):903-10.

The development of theory of mind in deaf children.

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Department of Psychology, King's College, University of Aberdeen, Scotland, UK.


Deaf children aged 4 to 16 years were given a false-belief test of theory of mind. Although the children experienced difficulty with the test, relative to hearing children, confirming a report by Peterson and Siegal (1995), performance was age-related, with a significantly higher proportion of 13- to 16-year-olds passing the test. It was concluded that deaf children raised in a spoken language environment show a developmental delay in theory of mind acquisition. This delay is consistent with the assumption that their early opportunities for learning about mental states are relatively restricted and that the normal development of theory of mind is dependent upon such opportunities.

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