of False Belief
Wimmer and Perner (1983) devised
the 'Sally-Ann' task diagramed below to test children's understanding of
false belief. In Step 1, the child watches as Sally puts the marble
in the basket. In step 2, the child sees Sally leave the scene.
In Step 3, the child watches as Ann moves the marble from the basket, hiding
it in the box. In Step 4, Sally returns to the scene, and the child
is asked where Sally will look for the marble. In the original study,
most 3- and 4-year-olds mistakenly said that sally would look in the box,
suggesting that their understanding of false belief was deficient.
Later variants of this task by Gopnik and Astington (1988) and Wellman
and Bartsch (1990) minimized the salience of the movement tansformation.
For example, in Wellman and Bartsch, children were only show the scence
in Step 4 and were asked to guess where the marble was. They were
then told that Sally though the marble was in the alternate location and
were asked to judge where Sally would search (that is, both the physical
transformation of moving the marble from one place to another and the requirement
that childrne would need to remember the original position were removed
from the procedure). In the Wellman and Bartsch, 3-year-olds, but
not 2-year-olds, could give accurate predictions. This series of
results suggests that young children's command of false belief understanding
is quite fragile.