Sequential Progressions in a Theory-of-Mind Scale: Longitudinal Perspectives


  • This research was supported by a grant from the U.S. National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (HD-22149) and by a grant from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (30270476), and the authors received indirect support from the University of Queensland and from the Australian Research Council. We gratefully acknowledge the helpful efforts of David Liu, Liu Yujuan, James Peterson, Kevin Brecker, Sara Parker, Kim Peterson, Jonathan Lane, and, especially, the children who participated with the generous consent of their parents.

concerning this article should be addressed to Henry M. Wellman, Center for Human Growth & Development, University of Michigan, 300 North Ingalls 10th Floor, Ann Arbor, MI 48109. Electronic mail may be sent to


Consecutive retestings of 92 U.S. preschoolers (= 30), Chinese preschoolers (= 31), and deaf children (= 31) examined whether the sequences of development apparent in cross-sectional results with a theory-of-mind scale also appeared in longitudinal assessment. Longitudinal data confirmed that theory-of-mind progressions apparent in cross-sectional scaling data also characterized longitudinal sequences of understanding for individual children. The match between cross-sectional and longitudinal sequences appeared for children who exhibit different progressions across cultures (United States vs. China) and for children with substantial delays (deaf children of hearing parents). Moreover, greater scale distances reflected larger longitudinal age differences.