Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

MA in Child Development


Child Development Graduate Program


Theory of mind refers to the ability to conceive of the mental lives that underlie behavior — an ability that supports virtually all interpersonal interaction. The development of theory of mind has been attributed to various cognitive, social and environmental factors. The possession of theory of mind in toddlers has been a widely disputed topic, viewed as contingent on their understanding of false-belief as demonstrated in a standard false-belief task. However, recent studies suggest that the standard task may be a weak indicator for various reasons. It may not encompass what young children are truly capable of. Some research shows that by adjusting the demands or context of the standard tasks, children have a better chance of succeeding at them, thereby demonstrating aspects of theory of mind at a younger age. This study argues that naturalistic observations of toddlers’ daily behavior suggest that young children may possess an awareness of mental states that ranges in availability depending on the context.