The data reported here were collected in partial fulfillment of a doctoral thesis conducted by the first author under the supervision of the second author. We are grateful to the parents and children who volunteered their time to participate and to the Penn State Families Interested in Research Studies group for access to their participant database. We thank Adam Christensen, Mike Kilcoyne, Jen Lyons, Lauren Biga, Kelly Hayduk, Megan Bibey, Kimberly Yingling, Katie Freet, and Lauren Sasaki for their valuable assistance in various phases of this work, and Rick Gilmore, Richard Carlson, Carol Miller, and Michael Chandler for their many insightful suggestions. This work was funded in part by Penn State Psychology Department grants awarded to Lauren Myers from the Bruce V. Moore Fund and the Child Study Center’s Faris Endowment. No endorsement of this research by any funding agency or source is implied. Portions of this research were presented at the 2009 biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Denver, CO.
Graphic Symbols as “The Mind on Paper”: Links Between Children’s Interpretive Theory of Mind and Symbol Understanding
Article first published online: 20 DEC 2011
© 2011 The Authors. Child Development © 2011 Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.
Volume 83, Issue 1, pages 186–202, January/February 2012
How to Cite
Myers, L. J. and Liben, L. S. (2012), Graphic Symbols as “The Mind on Paper”: Links Between Children’s Interpretive Theory of Mind and Symbol Understanding. Child Development, 83: 186–202. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2011.01693.x
- Issue published online: 25 JAN 2012
- Article first published online: 20 DEC 2011
Children gradually develop interpretive theory of mind (iToM)—the understanding that different people may interpret identical events or stimuli differently. The present study tested whether more advanced iToM underlies children’s recognition that map symbols’ meanings must be communicated to others when symbols are iconic (resemble their referents). Children (6–9 years; N = 80) made maps using either iconic or abstract symbols. After accounting for age, intelligence, vocabulary, and memory, iToM predicted children’s success in communicating symbols’ meaning to a naïve map-user when mapping tasks involved iconic (but not abstract) symbols. Findings suggest children’s growing appreciation of alternative representations and of the intentional assignment of meaning, and support the contention that ToM progresses beyond mastery of false belief.