Graduation Year

Spring 2012

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Linguistics and Cognitive Science

Reader 1

Laura Harris

Reader 2

Michael Spezio

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Rights Information

© 2012 Kathline C. Gomes


For nearly 30 years, researchers have been proposing and testing theories of the cognitive mechanisms that underlie children’s abilities to comprehend the mental states of others and to predict behavior on the basis of those abilities. One such theory, the “theory theory,” contends that children evaluate their own understanding of others’ minds, developing a theory and expanding it when they encounter situations incongruent with their predictions. Wellman and Liu (2004) present a scale of the changes that children’s understanding of mental state representations commonly undergo as children develop a mature theory of mind. The present study aims to clarify how children pass from one stage of understanding to the next, employing a training study paradigm to examine the possible role of verbal scaffolding on children’s progression in this sequence. Specifically, the present study hypothesizes that verbally emphasizing the connection between one’s knowledge and thoughts will advance children’s performance on false belief tasks. This hypothesis was not supported. Even though children may appear to be at the same developmental level on Wellman and Liu’s (2004) scale, the variation in their performances after training may indicate more nuanced underlying processes than are currently expressed by Wellman and Liu’s (2004) scale.