Wanting to Be It: Children's Understanding of Intentions Underlying Pretense



How children understand the mental state of pretense has recently become an active area of inquiry, with some research suggesting that young children do not understand that pretending is based on mentally representing some alternate state of affairs. Because intention is thought to be understood earlier than mental representation generally, these experiments tested whether children understand pretense intentions at an earlier age than they understand pretense mental representations. Children were told about a character's intentions and conflicting actions, and were asked about the character's pretense. Across 5 experiments, children did not demonstrate appreciation that intention is crucial to pretense. Various methodological factors that might have compromised the results were examined, but to no effect.