SPI Working Paper Series





WP #: 026

Date: Apr 2015


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SPI Funded Paper

The Curious Relation Between Theory of Mind and Sharing in Preschool Age Children

     This paper was published in PLoS One in 2015

    Jason M. Cowell, Anya Samek, John List, Jean Decety

    University of Chicago
    University of Wisconsin-Madison
    University of Chicago
    University of Chicago


Abstract:
Young children have long been known to act selfishly and gradually appear to become more generous across middle childhood. While this apparent change has been well documented, the underlying mechanisms supporting this remain unclear. The current study examined the role of early theory of mind and executive functioning in facilitating sharing in a large sample (N = 98) of preschoolers. Results reveal a curious relation between early false-belief understanding and sharing behavior. Contrary to many commonsense notions and predominant theories, competence in this ability is actually related to less sharing. Thus, the relation between developing theory of mind and sharing may not be as straightforward as it seems in preschool age children. It is precisely the children who can engage in theory of mind that decide to share less with others.