Evans, V. C., Berthiaume, V. G., & Shultz, T. R. (2010). Toddlers’ transitions on non-verbal false-belief tasks involving a novel location: a constructivist connectionist model. Proceedings of the Ninth IEEE International Conference on Development and Learning (pp. 225-230) Ann Arbor, MI: IEEE.



Some argue that children learn a Theory of Mind (ToM), the understanding that others have mental states, at around 3.5 years. This is evidenced by their transition from failure to success on verbal false-belief tasks, when they begin to verbally predict an actress will search for a toy where she falsely believes it to be, rather than in its actual location. However, non-verbal measures have recently been used to show that children in their second year of life may already have some understanding of others’ false beliefs. We present a Sibling-Descendant Cascade-Correlation neural-network model of one study that found 25-month-old toddlers correctly anticipated an actress would search according to her false belief. Networks were trained on true- and false-belief search patterns, simulating toddlers’ everyday experience with true and false beliefs, and then tested on non-verbal true- and false-belief tasks involving a novel location. Networks transitioned from incorrectly predicting true-belief searches in both true- and false-belief tasks to making correct predictions in both tasks. Our model thus (1) reproduced the transition that has been observed in older children and (2) generalized its learning to a novel location. The model can be used to refine our understanding of the transitions while again demonstrating the usefulness of SDCC as an algorithm for modeling cognitive development.


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