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Pre-schoolers’ Reasoning in a False-Belief Test Involving Negative Desires

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posted on 2021-11-14, 05:11 authored by Bell, John

How can people balance competing demands for efficiency and cognitive flexibility in understanding others’ beliefs and desires? The idea that humans have two systems for mindreading, a flexible but cognitively demanding system and a minimal, efficient system which operates quickly but possesses signature blindspots was tested. Spontaneous anticipatory looking (AL) and direct verbal predictions of 3- and 4- year-olds were assessed. Children’s AL responses displayed a signature blindspot to an agent’s desire to avoid an object in an unexpected-transfer false belief task. A dissociation between 4-year-olds’ spontaneous AL responses and direct verbal predictions in an avoidance task further supports a 2-mindreading-systems account. The quick efficient mindreading system tracks an agent’s desire to approach but not to avoid an object.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970117 Expanding Knowledge in Psychology and the Cognitive sciences

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Psychology


Low, Jason