Training Children’s Theory-of-Mind: A Meta-Analysis of Controlled Studies

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Claremont McKenna College, Psychology (CMC)

Publication Date




Theory-of-mind (ToM) refers to knowledge and awareness of mental states in oneself and others. Various training programs have been developed to improve ToM in children.


In the present study, we conducted a quantitative review of ToM training programs that have been tested in controlled studies.

Data sources

A literature search was conducted using PubMed, PsycInfo, the Cochrane Library, and manual searches.

Review methods

We identified 32 papers with 45 studies or experiments that included 1529 children with an average age of 63 months (SD = 28.7).


ToM training procedures were more effective than control procedures and their aggregate effect size was moderately strong (Hedges’ g = 0.75, CI = 0.60–0.89, p < .001). Moderator analyses revealed that although ToM training programs were generally effective, ToM skill-related outcomes increased with length of training sessions and were significantly higher in active control studies.


ToM training procedures can effectively enhance ToM in children.

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© 2016 Elsevier B.V.

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