Measuring theory of mind across middle childhood: Reliability and validity of the Silent Films and Strange Stories tasks

Rory Devine*, Claire Hughes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Recent years have seen a growth of research on the development of children's ability to reason about others’ mental states (or “theory of mind”) beyond the narrow confines of the preschool period. The overall aim of this study was to investigate the psychometric properties of a task battery composed of items from Happé’s Strange Stories task and Devine and Hughes’ Silent Film task. A sample of 460 ethnically and socially diverse children (211 boys) between 7 and 13 years of age completed the task battery at two time points separated by 1 month. The Strange Stories and Silent Film tasks were strongly correlated even when verbal ability and narrative comprehension were taken into account, and all items loaded onto a single theory-of-mind latent factor. The theory-of-mind latent factor provided reliable estimates of performance across a wide range of theory-of-mind ability and showed no evidence of differential item functioning across gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. The theory-of-mind latent factor also exhibited strong 1-month test–retest reliability, and this stability did not vary as a function of child characteristics. Taken together, these findings provide evidence for the validity and reliability of the Strange Stories and Silent Film task battery as a measure of individual differences in theory of mind suitable for use across middle childhood. We consider the methodological and conceptual implications of these findings for research on theory of mind beyond the preschool years.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-40
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Early online date6 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016


  • Adolescence
  • Measurement
  • Middle childhood
  • Psychometrics
  • Reliability
  • Theory of mind
  • Validity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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