Theory of Mind and Social Interest in Zero-Acquaintance Play Situations


  • This study was supported by a grant from Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada awarded to the first author and a grant from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Research Development Fund at Dalhousie University awarded to the second author. We are grateful to the children and parents who participated in this study. We thank Cherie Collicott, Karen Lemmon, Shana Nichols, Angela Ellsworth, Renata Militzer, Aurora Colon, Chris Merrick, Jon Sebesta, and Katie Walker for their work on this study. Thanks also to Henry Wellman and three anonymous reviewers for comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

concerning this article should be addressed to Chris Moore, Department of Psychology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, B3H 4R2, Canada; or Sandra Leanne Bosacki, Faculty of Education, Brock University, St. Catherines, Ontario, L2S 3A1, Canada. Electronic mail may be sent to or


Many studies have examined associations between children’s theory of mind and social behavior with familiar peers, but to date none have examined how theory of mind might relate to behavior toward unfamiliar peers in a play setting. Forty-four 4-year-olds (21 girls, 23 boys) participated in standard theory-of-mind tasks and in a play session with 3 or 4 other children who were unfamiliar. Children were also tested on general vocabulary ability. No relations were found between theory of mind and social engagement. However, positive associations were found between theory of mind and time spent observing, but not interacting with, other children. Possible explanations of the links between theory of mind, temperament, and social interest are considered.