Online usage of theory of mind continues to develop in late adolescence

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Colleges, School and Institutes


The development of theory of mind use was investigated by giving a computerized task to 177 female participants divided into five age groups: Child I (7.3-9.7 years); Child II (9.8-11.4); Adolescent I (11.5-13.9); Adolescent II (14.0-17.7); Adults (19.1-27.5). Participants viewed a set of shelves containing objects, which they were instructed to move by a 'director' who could see some but not all of the objects. Correct interpretation of critical instructions required participants to use the director's perspective and only move objects that the director could see. In a control condition, participants were asked to ignore objects in slots with a grey background. Accuracy improved similarly in both conditions between Child I and Adolescent II. However, while performance of the Adolescent II and Adult groups did not differ in the control condition, the Adolescent II group made more errors than the adults in the experimental condition. These results suggest that theory of mind use improves between late adolescence and adulthood. Thus, while theory of mind tasks are passed by age 4, these data indicate that the interaction between theory of mind and executive functions continues to develop in late adolescence.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-338
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2010