Development of Sharing in Preschoolers in Relation to Theory of Mind Understanding

Abstract

This study aimed to explore the relationship between children’s sharing behavior and Theory of Mind (ToM) understanding. Seventy-four 2 to 4 years old Chinese children participated in 3 tasks using toys that could be shared with a puppet that was animated by a female experimenter. On each task, the puppet expressed her desire for the items using a series of cues that progressively became more communicative. Children’s ToM understanding was assessed with the scale of ToM tasks (Wellman, Fang, Liu, Zhu, & Liu, 2006). There were two main findings: (1) younger children relied on more explicit communicative cues to share resources with the puppet, while older children shared more spontaneously and (2) children’s sharing behavior was positively correlated to their ToM scores, independent of age. Findings suggest that preschoolers’ sharing behavior is enhanced by their ToM understanding and explicit communicative cues provided by a social partner.


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