British Journal of Developmental Psychology

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Volume 37 Issue 2 (June 2019), Pages i-iv, 149-307

Modelling the executive components involved in processing false belief and mechanical/intentional sequences (pages 184-198)

To understand the executive demands of the false‐belief (FB) task relative to an alternative theory‐of‐mind (or mechanical causality) task, picture sequencing, the present study used path analyses. One hundred and sixty‐six children between 3 and 6 years old completed the FB and picture‐sequencing tasks, three executive function tasks (updating, inhibition, and shifting), and the receptive language test. The model with the best fit indicated that FB performance had a direct contribution from shifting of attention and inhibitory control, which was independent of the significant contribution made by picture sequencing. This model indicates that FB inference requires more executive processing than picture sequencing, which is used as an alternative task to measure theory of mind. Statement of contribution What is already known on this subject? The majority of researchers use the false‐belief task to assess mentalizing ability in young children. Sources of information used in various different mentalizing tasks require different levels of cognitive demand. Many executive functions (EFs) are involved in children's judgements of false belief. What does this study add? A statistical model was created to compare processing requirements of false‐belief and picture‐sequencing tasks. The model supported the claim that the false‐belief task involves considerably more than just mentalizing. Shifting the focus of attention was an EF that was found to be a key component of performance in the false‐belief task.

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