Date of Award

Spring 2021

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Economics, PhD

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Andrew RA Conway

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Kathy Pezdek

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Megan Zirnstein

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Eleonora Rossi

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.


Individual differences, Measurement, Psychometrics, Social cognition, Theory of mind


Understanding the perspectives of others is a critical skill. Theory of mind (ToM) is an essential ability for social competence and communication, and it is necessary for understanding behaviors that differ from our own (Premack and Woodruff, 1978). Although all individuals possess a ToM to varying degrees, bilinguals are especially adept to perspective-taking. Research has reported that bilinguals outperform monolinguals in ToM tasks (e.g., Goetz, 2003; Rubio-Fernandez & Glucksberg, 2012). However, the mechanisms underlying this effect are unclear. Studying individual differences in ToM performance between bilinguals and monolinguals can help explain these mechanisms. Yet this promising area of research faces an important challenge: the lack of psychometric research on ToM measurement. Recent research suggests that tests that measure the ToM construct might not be as reliable as previously thought (Warnell & Redcay, 2019). This hinders the interpretation of experimental and correlational findings and puts into question the validity of the ToM construct. This dissertation addresses these two questions empirically to improve our understanding of what constitutes ToM. Study 1 examines the structure of ToM, crystallized intelligence (Gc), and fluid intelligence (Gf) to understand (a) whether ToM constitutes a construct separate from other cognitive abilities and (b) to explore whether tasks of ToM present adequate construct validity. For this, three confirmatory factor analyses (CFAs) were conducted. The results demonstrated that a model with three latent factors (ToM, Gf and Gc) did not adequately fit the data and was not significantly different from a model with only two latent factors (ToM-Gf and Gc). In addition, an exploratory factor analysis (EFA) showed that two of the ToM tasks loaded onto a Gf factor whereas one of the tasks loaded onto a third factor by itself. Finally, an exploratory network analysis (NMA) was conducted to observe relationships among the tasks. The results showed that the ToM tasks were no more related to each other than to some tasks of Gf and Gc, and that ToM tasks did not form a consistent cluster. Overall, the results of Study 1 suggest that ToM tasks are likely not measuring a monolithic ToM construct. Study 2 examines individual differences in metalinguistic awareness, executive function, and bilingualism as predictors of ToM. The results showed that all variables significantly predicted ToM, but bilingualism was not a significant moderator of ToM. Overall, the findings suggest that in this sample there was no difference in the processes used to predict ToM based on being bilingual or monolingual. Implications for measurement and individual differences in ToM are discussed.