Can an agent's false belief be corrected by an appropriate communication? Psychological reasoning in 18-month-old infants

Hyun joo Song, Kristine H. Onishi, Renée Baillargeon, Cynthia Fisher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

125 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Do 18-month-olds understand that an agent's false belief can be corrected by an appropriate, though not an inappropriate, communication? In Experiment 1, infants watched a series of events involving two agents, a ball, and two containers: a box and a cup. To start, agent1 played with the ball and then hid it in the box, while agent2 looked on. Next, in agent1's absence, agent2 moved the ball from the box to the cup. When agent1 returned, agent2 told her "The ball is in the cup!" (informative-intervention condition) or "I like the cup!" (uninformative-intervention condition). During test, agent1 reached for either the box (box event) or the cup (cup event). In the informative-intervention condition, infants who saw the box event looked reliably longer than those who saw the cup event; in the uninformative-intervention condition, the reverse pattern was found. These results suggest that infants expected agent1's false belief about the ball's location to be corrected when she was told "The ball is in the cup!", but not "I like the cup!". In Experiment 2, agent2 simply pointed to the ball's new location, and infants again expected agent1's false belief to be corrected. These and control results provide additional evidence that infants in the second year of life can attribute false beliefs to agents. In addition, the results suggest that by 18 months of age infants expect agents' false beliefs to be corrected by relevant communications involving words or gestures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-315
Number of pages21
JournalCognition
Volume109
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Dec 1

    Fingerprint

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

Cite this