False Belief Problems

False-belief problems are tests that highlight a young child's inability to realize that others will retain their own individual beliefs without regard to information that the child is privy to.

An example that illustrates this test is a child shown a box that is labeled "CANDY." When asked what is in the box the child will respond that it is filled with candy. A researcher will then open the box and it contains pencils. The child is then asked what another child would say when asked the contents of the closed box. A child over the age of three will typically say that the child would guess "candy" because they understand that the other child has a false belief.

With children under the age of three, when asked what another would say claim that they knew what was in the box all along and that another child would also know that pencils were inside the box. Universally, children 3 and under have difficulty understanding that when they are aware an alternative belief is false (like the box containing candy) that other people can accept the alternative belief as true. In the egocentric mind of a very young child because they are aware of something it means that others are aware of it as well.

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