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Volume 6 Issue 5 (November 2003), Pages 449-603

Problems with the Seeing = Knowing Rule (pages 505-513)


The view that children understand the mind via a coherent theory is supported by evidence that children rigidly follow a Seeing = Knowing Rule: seeing, and only seeing, leads to knowing. This paper presents two kinds of evidence that children do not follow this rule. First, we critically review previous findings that children neglect the role of inference and argue that these studies do not in fact support the view that children follow a Seeing = Knowing Rule. We then present two studies in which children who correctly attributed ignorance and false belief to an observer in a false belief task also attributed ignorance (Study 1) and false belief (Study 2) in true belief tasks. These findings demonstrate that children sometimes attribute ignorance and false belief to an observer who is granted visual access, an outcome that should not occur if children rigidly follow the Seeing = Knowing Rule. We end by discussing some problems associated with modifying the Seeing = Knowing Rule to account for children's failure on the true belief task.

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