- Volume 16 Issue 1
This study was carried out to examine whether children had the naive psychological knowledge that the mental states ate requited to understand the intentional actions, whether their psychological knowledge was organized as a theory, and in what aspects the knowledge changed as children get older. Three- to 11-year-olds were presented with two types of tasks. In action explanation tasks, children were presented with simple descriptions of two characters engaging in specific actions and then asked to explain the characters' action. In action prediction tasks, they were told stories depicting a character's desire and belief and then asked to predict the action of the character. Three-year-olds explained the action in terms of abstract construct such as emotion, intention, and desire, and they predicted the character's action on the basis of her/his desire and explicit belief but not on the basis of inferred false belief and traits. In addition when they were asked to explain one mental state, they explained in terms of other mental states, suggesting the coherence of their knowledge. The present results suggested that even 3-year-olds' psychological knowledge was organized as a theory, in that it was used as a causal device in explaining and predicting human actions, and it had abstractness and coherence. Older children's knowledge was different from 3-year-olds' in that older children explained the action in terms of more complicated mental states such as beliefs and traits. The nature of the developmental change in psychological knowledge was discussed.