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Volume 2 Issue 1 (March 1999), Pages 1-113

Selecting the wrong processor: a critique of Leslie’s theory of mind mechanism–selection processor theory (pages 81-85)

The fundamental assumption behind Leslie’s theory of mind mechanism theory is that from 18 months onwards a single device, the theory of mind mechanism, allows children to represent both pretend and belief in terms of propositional attitudes. This is compared with Perner’s argument that early pretence is not understood in terms of propositional attitudes. Recent modifications to Leslie’s theory aim to explain why children younger than 4 years fail the false belief test. Leslie argues that the correct proposition is computed, not by the theory of mind mechanism, but by the selection processor, a later‐developing executive device. In this paper I examine the coherence of Leslie’s revised theory and conclude that representing beliefs is now entirely the task of the selection processor; the theory of mind mechanism is no longer involved, thus contravening the fundamental assumption of the theory. The conclusion is that the theory and the assumption should be abandoned.

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