Silent Films and Strange Stories: Theory of Mind, Gender, and Social Experiences in Middle Childhood

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  • University of Cambridge


In this study of two hundred and thirty 8- to 13-year-olds, a new "Silent Films" task is introduced, designed to address the dearth of research on theory of mind in older children by providing a film-based analogue of F. G. E. Happé's (1994) Strange Stories task. Confirmatory factor analysis showed that all items from both tasks loaded onto a single theory-of-mind latent factor. With effects of verbal ability and family affluence controlled, theory-of-mind latent factor scores increased significantly with age, indicating that mentalizing skills continue to develop through middle childhood. Girls outperformed boys on the theory-of-mind latent factor, and the correlates of individual differences in theory of mind were gender specific: Low scores were related to loneliness in girls and to peer rejection in boys.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)989-1003
Number of pages15
JournalChild Development
Issue number3
Early online date30 Nov 2012
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2013