British Journal of Developmental Psychology

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Volume 23 Issue 1 (March 2005), Pages 1-155

Theory of mind and mental state discourse during book reading and story‐telling tasks (pages 81-102)

This article presents three studies conducted in Canada and Australia that relate theory of mind (ToM) development to mental state discourse. In Study 1, mental state discourse was examined while parents and their 5–7‐year‐old children jointly read a storybook which had a surprise ending about the identity of the main character. Comments specific to the mental states of the story characters and discourse after the book had ended were positively related to children's ToM, and this was due to parent elaborations. Studies 2 and 3 examined children's mental state discourse during story‐telling tasks, and in both, mental state discourse of children during narrative was concurrently related to ToM performance. While research has shown that mental state discourse of parents is related to children's ToM acquisition, the current research indicates that children's spontaneous use of mental state language examined outside of the interactional context is also a strong correlate.

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