The Impact of Verbal Capacity on Theory of Mind in Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children

Am Ann Deaf. Spring 2012;157(1):66-77. doi: 10.1353/aad.2012.1610.


Even when they have good language skills, many children with hearing loss lag several years behind hearing children in the ability to grasp beliefs of others. The researchers sought to determine whether this lag results from difficulty with the verbal demands of tasks or from conceptual delays. The researchers related children's performance on a nonverbal theory of mind task to their scores on verbal aptitude tests. Twelve French children (average age about 10 years) with severe to profound hearing loss and 12 French hearing children (average about 7 years) were evaluated. The children with hearing loss showed persistent difficulty with theory of mind tasks, even a nonverbal task, presenting results similar to those of hearing 6-year-olds. Also, the children with hearing loss showed a correlation between language level (lexical and morphosyntactic) and understanding of false beliefs. No such correlation was found in the hearing children.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aptitude Tests
  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Comprehension
  • Concept Formation
  • Correction of Hearing Impairment / psychology*
  • Culture
  • Deafness / psychology
  • Deafness / rehabilitation
  • Female
  • Hearing Loss / psychology*
  • Hearing Loss / rehabilitation
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Persons With Hearing Impairments / psychology*
  • Persons With Hearing Impairments / rehabilitation
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Theory of Mind*
  • Verbal Behavior*