Developmental Science

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Volume 6 Issue 2 (April 2003), Pages 119-231

Is a false belief statement a lie or a truthful statement? Judgments and explanations of children aged 3 to 8 (pages 173-177)


Attribution of a false belief is usually taken to indicate that children distinguish between a real world state of affairs and its representation by a subject. But how do they conceive of the properties of such a mental entity? Do they understand that false belief necessarily goes hand in hand with good faith? Our study explores to what extent children conflate false beliefs with lies. Sixty children aged 3 to 8 were presented with an FB situation and then asked whether the character having an FB was lying or not. Results show that up to 6 years, although correctly attributing the FB, children systematically judge the FB statement to be a lie, since it does not correspond to the real world state of affairs. Older children succeed in the lie judgment, invoking the false believer's not knowing the world state. Discussion bears on the relation between false belief and more general epistemic states.

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