Five-year-olds' handling of reference and description in the domains of language and mental representation

Ian Apperly, Elizabeth Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)


Children's concurrent success on false belief tasks and their handling of two labels for one object (e.g., bunny/rabbit) has been interpreted as demonstrating understanding about the essential features of representation. Three experiments reveal the limitations in 5-year-olds' understanding for both mental and linguistic representations. We report relatively poor performance on a task involving two labels for one object (e.g., dice/eraser) which required children to treat another's knowledge as representing only some of the feature of its real referent: Dice but not eraser. Five year olds who made errors also had difficulty handling the fact that a written word 'dice' referring to such a dice/eraser, can also be applied, to a standard dice but not to a standard eraser. These children lacked metalinguistic awareness of words as entities that both refer and describe. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-75
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2002


  • representations
  • theory of mind
  • metalinguistic awareness


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