Young children's peer popularity and theories of mind

Year: 1996

Author: Dockett, Sue

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The paper reports the findings of a project which has investigated the connection between young children's development of a representational theory of mind and their popularity among peers. While this connection was identified in earlier research, this paper explores the issue of popularity among peers in greater detail and over a longer period of time and compares a broader range of data with children's performance on a series of theory of mind tasks.

The data presented is drawn from a series of interviews and observations involving four-year-old children attending a preschool in the south-western region of Sydney. A range of data regarding children's popularity among peers is reported, including peer nominations of popular, neutral and unpopular children and the consistency of these over a period of several months; teacher ratings of children's popularity; and observations of the behaviours and actions of children described as popular, neutral or unpopular. Some comparison of these data is presented, however the major focus of this paper is the connection between popularity among peers and a representational theory of mind, as evidenced by children's performance on a series of false belief, appearance-reality and representational change tasks. As the project was conducted over a period of two preschool terms, a particular focus will be on the consistency of children's ratings of peers and the consistency of responses to a range of theory of mind tasks.