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Children's Developing Awareness of Diversity in People's Trains of Thought


  • This research was supported in part by a National Research Service Award (MH 12453-01) from the National Institutes of Health. The research formed a large part of my doctoral dissertation at Stanford University. Portions of this research were presented at the Society for Research in Child Development biennial meetings in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1999, and in Minneapolis, Minneapolis in 2001. I give a special thanks to John Flavell whose guidance and suggestions regarding this research were invaluable. I also want to thank the children, parents, and teachers whose cooperation made these studies possible.

concerning this article should be addressed to Anne Eisbach, CLAC 1, Quinnipiac University, 275 Mt. Carmel Ave., Hamden, Connecticut, 06518. Electronic mail may be sent to


This research explored the development of one insight about the mind, namely, the belief that people's trains of thought differ even when they see the same stimulus. In Study 1, 5-year-olds, 9-year-olds, and adults heard stories about characters who saw the same object. Although the older groups predicted the object would trigger different trains of thought, most 5-year-olds did not. In Study 2, 5-year-olds (preschoolers and kindergartners) and 7-year-olds heard similar stories, plus stories with additional individuating information about each character. With age, children increasingly recognized that thoughts would differ and could explain why. The development of this insight during the school years likely provides children with a more complete understanding of what it means to be a unique individual.