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Young children's explanation of action

German, Timothy Paul; (1995) Young children's explanation of action. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This thesis investigated children's theory of mind explanation. In Chapter 1 the theory of mind literature, which centres on the false belief task (Wimmer and Perner. 1983), is reviewed in the context of two theoretical approaches to theory of mind. The first approach accounts for development in terms of a shift in children's theory of mind competence (CS accounts). The second views development as involving an early (perhaps innate) and stable theory of mind competence, coupled with changes in the performance resources hypothesized to be responsible for deploying this competence (CC accounts). A further approach to commonsen.se psychology, which challenges the idea that the child has access to a "theory" of mind at all, was dealt with in Chapter 2. In Chapter 3 a test of a recent CC theory was presented. Two experiments provided evidence compatible with the CC approach. However, problems in interpretation were identified that suggested the investigation of children's explanations would be profitable. The next four chapters were concerned with explanation. The explanation literature was reviewed, with special attention paid to methodology. A scheme for the categorization of explanations in terms of their hypothesized resource requirements was constructed. Children's explanations for simple search actions under various conditions were then investigated. The results of the first investigations (Chapter 5) showed that children's explanations of successful actions, that is, those that satisfied an agent's expressed desire, were invariably desire-based. Unsuccessful actions were explained in terms of the agent's (false) beliefs, but only when there was no simpler desire explanation. A simple model of explanation was proposed to account for these results. In the next investigation (Chapter 6), the relationship between belief-based action explanation and belief-based action prediction was shown to depend on local task structure rather than the child's presumed competence stage. Such an effect was argued to be more easily accommodated within a CC rather than a CS approach to theory of mind. Finally, the action explanation paradigm was applied to the study of Self-Other differences in theory of mind (Chapter 7).Children were shown to be able to use video evidence to explain their own false belief-based actions better than the actions of another agent. Because no conceptual difference is hypothesized to exist between reasoning about oneself and reasoning about another, the results were once again interpreted as favouring CC theory approaches over CS theory approaches. In the last chapter, some conclusions are drawn and future directions are identified.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Young children's explanation of action
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10099760
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