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Memory Span as a Predictor of False Belief Understanding.

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Table of Content

1.    Introduction  ===========================  3

2.    More information =======================  4

3.    Procedure =============================  6

4.    Result ================================   7

5.    Conclusion ============================   7



A lot of factors have been observed for the development of working memory span. These factors generate the children’s developing understanding of false belief. Keenan et al. assert that working memory is one of these factors which might be responsible for the developmental change in false beliefs. Generally, these factors can be seen among the 4 or underage kids.

So, the aim of the study is to observe the prediction of the theory that working memory affects the children’s performance on a set of false belief tasks. This theory is tested on the kids of the age around 4. Undoubtedly, it is mentioned in a research named “theory of mind”, that around age 4, children start to observe their own and others’ minds. But these beliefs can be real or just a misrepresent reality.

Based on the false belief, there is an example mentioned in the theory (Baron-Cohen, Leslie & Frith, 1985). In this example, “it is clear that the 4-year-olds will recognize the situation more as compared to the 3-year-olds. So, the example is that there is one puppet named Sally, who hides her object (chocolate) in a green box. She leaves that place and goes outside. Whereas, another puppet named Ann, she removes that object from the green box and moves to a red box.”

So, the result shows that the 3-years-old kids fail in the test. As they state that Sally will look in the red box, where an object is already located. But, most of the 4-years-old kids give the correct answer. They said that Sally will look in the green box, where it was before. They recognize that Sally will have a false belief. So, she will perform her activities on the basis of her false-belief, not on the reality of the situation.

When kids understand that most of the peeps act on the basis of their beliefs rather than the current situation, one can say that the child understands the mind as a representational medium. The mind gives an information to them. Further, this information can correspond or fail to correspond with reality.

More Information

But this theory is still unclear that the false belief understanding is increasing day by day under the age 4.  In an interview, Ruffman, Perner, and Parkin state that the mothers who use the mental state explanations in their attempts to their child, were more likely to clear the test of false belief understanding. Secondly, Perner, Ruffman, and Leekam (1994), the children with siblings pass the test of false belief reasoning as compared to those with no siblings. Finally, Meins, Fernyhough, Russell, and Clark-Carter (in press) said that the kids of age 3, were likely to clear a test who are emotionally and strongly attached to the caregivers.

The other individual difference states by Fodor (1992) on the basis of the limitations in the child’s information processing capacity.  He has argued that the kids are forced to use heuristics which usually cause errors in their prediction and understanding of other’s belief. These proposals have been made which tries to help in understanding the false belief reasoning around age 4 (Case, 1989; Davis & Pratt, 1995; Frye, Zelazo, & Palfai, 1995; Keenan et al., 1998; Olson, 1989; 1993).

Other research, such as Pascual-Leone (1970) states that the ability to work memory 0r ‘M-space’ usually enhances with maturation.  In other research, et al.’s defines that the skills can be executed automatically, which requires less working memory and leaving more capacity for other tasks. But in both the cases, it is seen that the capacity of working memory, enhance with age and is directly related to the cognitive development.

Further, Ericsson and Kintsch (1995) suggest that working memory is just a subset of knowledge which is stored in long-term memory. Where, Cowan (1994; 1995) has explained that model of working memory, that there is a central executive which pays attention to some related subsets of long-term memory. Greater attentional capacity allows a greater subset of information held for a long at one time.

The research mentioned in the above paragraphs definitely describe the models of working memory. It shows that the amount of information can actively be held in mind increases in capacity with age. So, the ‘hold in mind’ has been defined as the root of children’s developing understanding of false belief. In all these studies, it is made that the growth of working memory helps the kids to make a more complex representation of the other world. They can easily transform the person’s beliefs to the other beliefs in their world.

So, it is shown that no doubt, working memory plays a vital role in making a false-belief.

To prove a relationship between the false belief understand and working memory. A test has been generated by Davis and Pratt (1995) and Keenan et al. (1998) for the kids. Keenan et al. gave a test to the kids based on a memory span task designed by Case et al. (1985). In that task, the children need to the countings of the red dots provided on the cards. For this test, he provided three levels. First and second levels were easier as compared to the third level. At the third level, kids were provided more than one card at the same time to give the correct answer. Keenan et al. showed that 7% of the variance in the false belief can be measured on the children’s performance on the counting span test.

But in the original study, a language measure was not included. Some suggestions were made in the research of the false-belief measure. Firstly, “The language might act a scaffold for developing representational systems.” Secondly, research by de Villers and Pyers (1997), they argue that the linguistic constructions are a product of the children’s an understanding of false belief. Last but not least, cognitive and family factors. In order to know more about understanding of false belief, Hresko, Reid & Hammill (1981) conduct a TELD (Test of Early Language Development). In this test, children need to score 14 or better to reach a linguistic performance.


·        To test a children’s working memory, the counting span task was designed. In this test, children need to clear the 3 levels. By these levels, Keenan et al. can test the memory of the kids. They were provided the cards in which they need to tell the red dots on those cards. In this, the range of the score was between 0 and 9.

·        The next test was taken by Wimmer and Perner (1983). In this, children watched the story of the dolls and toys. After watching this, they need to answer the three questions. In this, the range of the score was between 0 and 3.

·        Finally, children were administered the TELD (Hresko et al., 1981). In this, kids need to give the test. But the location of the test was their classroom. So that, they can be familiar with an environment. The teachers were sitting next to them but were not taking part in this test.



The result shows that the relationship between language and false belief understanding in this mediated largely by the child’s age.  Whereas, the correlations seem different between false-belief and TELD scores.

The results of the present study demonstrate that the working memory measure was a greater strength of children’s correct performance on the false belief measure. In all the studies, a clearer picture can be seen that there is a bond between children’s false belief understanding and developmental increases in working memory.

Moreover, it is also shown that some factors like parental talk about mental states (Brown & Dunn, 1991; Ruffman et al., in press), sibling interactions (Perner, Ruffman, & Leekam, 1994) help in working memory.


To conclude, it shows that the child’s acquisition of a theory of mind is not fully dependent on the working memory. But, it is undeniable that it has one of the most imperative roles in the child’s developing understanding of the mind. It has the ability to make and express the concepts.




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