Representing How Rabbits Quack and Competitors Act: Limits on Preschoolers' Efficient Ability to Track Perspective



This study investigated whether humans have two mind-reading systems whereby the efficient system, unlike the flexible system, is naturally limited. There were two experiments and the first included adults as well as children (3- to 4-year-olds; total = 128). In Experiment 1, all groups efficiently gazed in anticipation of an agent's beliefs about object location but not object identity (an ambiguous figure). In Experiment 2, children showed limits in anticipating a competitive agent's action in terms of his perspective on what is desirable. Flexibility in verbally predicting agents' actions across contexts developed with age. Convergence on signature limits across different ages and methods suggests that indirect anticipations involve minimal mind reading, whereas direct predictions tap a refined understanding of perspective.