Early false-belief understanding in traditional non-Western societies

H. Clark Barrett, Tanya Broesch, Rose M. Scott, Zijing He, Renee L Baillargeon, Di Wu, Matthias Bolz, Joseph Henrich, Peipei Setoh, Jianxin Wang, Stephen Laurence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20122575
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume280
Issue number1755
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 22 2013

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cross cultural studies
social adjustment
Fiji
Ecuador
childhood
early development
China
Psychological Adaptation
society
testing
Psychology
test
young

Keywords

  • Evolutionary psychology
  • False-belief understanding
  • Human universals
  • Social cognition
  • Theory of mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

Cite this

Early false-belief understanding in traditional non-Western societies. / Barrett, H. Clark; Broesch, Tanya; Scott, Rose M.; He, Zijing; Baillargeon, Renee L; Wu, Di; Bolz, Matthias; Henrich, Joseph; Setoh, Peipei; Wang, Jianxin; Laurence, Stephen.

In: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Vol. 280, No. 1755, 20122575, 22.03.2013.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Barrett, HC, Broesch, T, Scott, RM, He, Z, Baillargeon, RL, Wu, D, Bolz, M, Henrich, J, Setoh, P, Wang, J & Laurence, S 2013, 'Early false-belief understanding in traditional non-Western societies', Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol. 280, no. 1755, 20122575. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2012.2654
Barrett, H. Clark ; Broesch, Tanya ; Scott, Rose M. ; He, Zijing ; Baillargeon, Renee L ; Wu, Di ; Bolz, Matthias ; Henrich, Joseph ; Setoh, Peipei ; Wang, Jianxin ; Laurence, Stephen. / Early false-belief understanding in traditional non-Western societies. In: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 2013 ; Vol. 280, No. 1755.
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