Attributing false beliefs about non-obvious properties at 18 months

Rose M. Scott, Renée Baillargeon, Hyun joo Song, Alan M. Leslie

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93 Citations (Scopus)


Reports that infants in the second year of life can attribute false beliefs to others have all used a search paradigm in which an agent with a false belief about an object's location searches for the object. The present research asked whether 18-month-olds would still demonstrate false-belief understanding when tested with a novel non-search paradigm. An experimenter shook an object, demonstrating that it rattled, and then asked an agent, " Can you do it?" In response to this prompt, the agent selected one of two test objects. Infants realized that the agent could be led through inference (Experiment 1) or memory (Experiment 2) to hold a false belief about which of the two test objects rattled. These results suggest that 18-month-olds can attribute false beliefs about non-obvious properties to others, and can do so in a non-search paradigm. These and additional results (Experiment 3) help address several alternative interpretations of false-belief findings with infants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-395
Number of pages30
JournalCognitive Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Dec

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a predoctoral traineeship from NIMH ( 1 T32MH1819990 ) to Rose M. Scott, by a grant from NICHD to Renée Baillargeon ( HD-021104 ), by a grant from the Korean Research Foundation to Hyun-joo Song ( KRF-2008-332-H00011 ), and by grants from NSF to Alan M. Leslie ( BCS-0725169 and BCS-0922184 ). We thank Andrei Cimpian, Jerry DeJong, and Cindy Fisher for helpful discussions; the staff of the University of Illinois Infant Cognition Laboratory for their help with the data collection and coding; and the parents and infants who participated in the research.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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