Children can use others’ emotional expressions to infer their knowledge and predict their behaviors in classic false belief tasks

AbstractIn this study, we investigate whether emotional expressions provide cues to knowledge sufficient for predicting others’ behavior based on their true and false beliefs. We adapted the classic Sally-Anne task (Baron-Cohen, Leslie, & Frith, 1985) such that children (N = 62, mean = 5.58 years, range: 4.05-6.98 years) were not told whether Sally saw Anne move the object or not. However, when Sally came back looking angry, even four-year-olds inferred that she had seen Anne move her toy; when she came back looking happy, children inferred that she had not seen the transfer. Based on these inferences, five and six-year-olds, although not four-year-olds, were able to predict where Sally would look for her toy.

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