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Appears in Collections:Psychology Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Helping as an early indicator of a theory of mind: Mentalism or Teleology?
Author(s): Priewasser, Beate
Rafetseder, Eva
Gargitter, Carina
Perner, Josef
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Keywords: helping paradigm
Theory of Mind
early false belief understanding
Issue Date: 1-Jun-2018
Citation: Priewasser B, Rafetseder E, Gargitter C & Perner J (2018) Helping as an early indicator of a theory of mind: Mentalism or Teleology?. Cognitive Development, 46, pp. 69-78.
Abstract: This article challenges Buttelmann, Carpenter, and Tomasello’s (2009) claim that young children’s helping responses in their task are based on ascribing a false belief to a mistaken agent. In the first Study 18- to 32-month old children (N = 28) were more likely to help find a toy in the false belief than in the true belief condition. In Study 2, with 54 children of the same age, we assessed the authors’ mentalist interpretation of this result against an alternative teleological interpretation that does not make this assumption of belief ascription. The data speak in favor of our alternative. Children’s social competency is based more on inferences about what is likely to happen in a particular situation and on objective reasons for action than on inferences about agents’ mental states. We also discuss the need for testing serious alternative interpretations of claims about early belief understanding.
DOI Link: 10.1016/j.cogdev.2017.08.002
Rights: © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (

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