Parental mental-state talk and false belief understanding in Hong Kong children

Meingold Chan, Zhenlin Wang, Rory Devine, Claire Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While meta-analytic evidence (Devine & Hughes, 2018) indicates a small but consistent link between parental mental-state talk (MST) and preschoolers’ false belief understanding (FBU), studies of non-Western samples remain scarce. Addressing this gap, we recruited 105 three- to five-year-old Hong Kong children and their parents and investigated how variation in children’s FBU was related to two aspects of parental MST (i.e., type and referent), coded from observations of parent-child dyads engaged with a wordless picture book. Using a latent variable approach, we found that parental MST about their own emotions, own desires, and others’ cognitions, but not children’s mental states, were significantly associated with children’s FBU. Importantly, these associations remained significant even when children’s age, language ability, number of siblings, socioeconomic status, and parents’ verbosity were controlled. As well as supporting the generalizability of the association between parental MST and children’s FBU to non-Western samples, these findings highlight the need for more fine-grained work to explore specific aspects of parental MST in relation to children’s FBU.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100926
JournalCognitive Development
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2020


  • Cultural universality
  • False belief understanding
  • Mental-state talk
  • Theory of mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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