Psicologia: Reflexão e Crítica
On-line version ISSN 1678-7153
ROAZZI, Antonio and SANTANA, Suely de Melo. Theory of Mind: the effect of age, sex and the use of animate and inanimate "actors" in inferring mental states. Psicol. Reflex. Crit. [online]. 1999, vol.12, n.2, pp. 307-330. ISSN 1678-7153. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0102-79721999000200005.
The present study was carried out with 72 Brazilian children aged 4-5 years to determine: the acquisition age of children's ability to distinguish between their own mental states and the mental states of others, and whether this developmental acquisition depends on the type of actor involved - inanimate (doll) vs. animate (other child). The results showed that children began to understand other people's mental states from the age of five, at least regarding false beliefs. No significant difference between animate and inanimate actors was found. These data differ from previous findings that such abilities had already developed at the age of four. Contrary to the "inborn" hypothesis, defended by some researchers, and in agreement with other data obtained in Brazil (regarding orphanage children), our results suggest that the universality of the time of onset of this ability is questionable.
Keywords : Theory of mind; metarepresentation; context; sociocultural differences; cognitive abilities.