Theory of mind (ToM) is defined as the “awareness of one’s own mental processes and the mental processes of others” (Ciccarelli, 2013). According to Apperly (2012), Astington & Huges (2013) and Wellman (2011), interest in nature begins at a very young age. Three-year-old children should be able to perceive and understand through observation (Pratt & Bryant, 1990), discriminate positive/negative emotions, and distinguish one’s and other’s desires, which is a milestone in the development of ToM. From ages three to five, children begin to have false beliefs (Wellman, Cross, & Watson, 2001), or the notion that it is possible for people to have incorrect understanding. It is not until around the age of five to seven when children begin to fully understand the possibility of false beliefs and numerous explanations to a single event (Carpendale & Chandler, 1996), which enables them to understand ambiguous images and its different facets. Children also develop the ability to conceal information from the age of three to five in order to influence the behavior of others (Peskin, 1992). Whereas children before the age of three usually fail to misinform and misinterpret information to a competitor who will choose their formerly specified preference, older children acquired the ability to conceal and misinform to manipulate their competitor to obtain their stated preference.
We hypothesize that ToM does not exist at the age of three.
The participant is a three-year-old boy, Norris. We were provided with a better understanding of Norris from the semi-structured interview with his parent. (View Appendix A & B).
The false-belief task was a revised version of the classic “Sally and Anne” experiment (Baron-Cohen, Leslie & Frith, 1985) to test the ToM. Instead of the administering the original paper version of this test (Appendix C), we made use of role play, which research proved to be advantageous for observation, rehearsal and discussion (Nestel & Tierney, 2007) and showed enhanced understand of the relationship between conceptions and increased its retention overtime (Druckman & Ebner, 2008), especially due to his young age and possible inability to understand a visual task on paper. Due to the amendment to the original task, dolls, containers in different colour and shape as well as a ping-pong ball (in place of a marble) are used in the test. Two dolls were presented to the participant we ensured he knew which doll was which (Naming Question). The first doll places the ball into one box, while the second doll transfers the ball to the other box while the first doll is out of the scene. When the first doll returns, the experimenter will ask the critical belief question (Where will the first doll look for the ball?). The participant is asked to justify his answer.
The second deception task is based on Peskin’s (1992) “Ruse and Representations: On Children's Ability to Conceal Information”. The original experiment consisted of one pilot...