British Journal of Developmental Psychology

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Volume 17 Issue 3 (September 1999), Pages 319-481

Preschoolers' pretend play and theory of mind: The role of jointly constructed pretence (pages 333-348)

As they develop, preschool children make great strides in their ability to take and understand multiple perspectives, sometimes referred to as the development of a theory of mind. Recently, the role of pretend play in that development has been investigated. In the present study, 2 experiments were conducted with 85 preschoolers. Children were observed during naturalistic spontaneous play on three independent occasions and then tested on their ability to differentiate appearance and reality and to understand false belief. Results suggest that children who displayed more jointly constructed pretence in their play better distinguished the apparent and real identity of visually deceptive objects. This was true after controlling for age and, in the second experiment, verbal intelligence. Solitary pretend play was not as strongly associated with theory of mind ability. These findings suggest that makebelieve play, particularly socially interactive role play, develops concurrently with children's understanding of multiple representational tasks.

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