False-belief understanding in infants

Trends Cogn Sci. 2010 Mar;14(3):110-8. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2009.12.006. Epub 2010 Jan 27.


At what age can children attribute false beliefs to others? Traditionally, investigations into this question have used elicited-response tasks in which children are asked a direct question about an agent's false belief. Results from these tasks indicate that the ability to attribute false beliefs does not emerge until about age 4. However, recent investigations using spontaneous-response tasks suggest that this ability is present much earlier. Here we review results from various spontaneous-response tasks that suggest that infants in the second year of life can already attribute false beliefs about location and identity as well as false perceptions. We also consider alternative interpretations that have been offered for these results, and discuss why elicited-response tasks are particularly difficult for young children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Child Language*
  • Communication*
  • Comprehension*
  • Concept Formation*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Language Development*
  • Psychological Theory
  • Space Perception