This research was financially supported by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF-P-14495-G03 and by a Marie-Curie-Fellowship of the European Community (HPMT-CT-2001-00374) to Manuel Sprung. We are grateful to an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on an earlier version of the paper. We would also like to thank Michael Nelson for suggesting the potential relevance of our research to the debate between Schiffer and Salmon. Further, many thanks go to the staff and children of the following kindergartens for their cooperation and valuable time participating in this project: Gemeindekindergarten Adnet, Pfarrkindergarten Nonntal and Sportkindergruppe Monika Eder. We also thank Sarah Backmund and Gabriela Markova for help with data collection.
Opacity and Discourse Referents: Object Identity and Object Properties
Article first published online: 10 MAY 2007
2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Mind & Language
Volume 22, Issue 3, pages 215–245, June 2007
How to Cite
SPRUNG, M., PERNER, J. and MITCHELL, P. (2007), Opacity and Discourse Referents: Object Identity and Object Properties. Mind & Language, 22: 215–245. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0017.2007.00307.x
- Issue published online: 10 MAY 2007
- Article first published online: 10 MAY 2007
Abstract: It has been found that children appreciate the limited substitutability of co-referential terms in opaque contexts a year or two after they pass false belief tasks (e.g. Apperly and Robinson, 1998, 2001, 2003). This paper aims to explain this delay. Three- to six-year-old children were tested with stories where a protagonist was either only partially informed or had a false belief about a particular object. Only a few children had problems predicting the protagonist’s action based on his partial knowledge, when he was only partially informed about a property of the desired object (e.g. he knew that it was a Lego® block, but not that it was a red Lego® block). But many had problems making the correct action prediction when he was only partially informed about dual identities (e.g. he knew it was a dog, but not that it was also an eraser). About as many children made an incorrect action prediction for partial knowledge problems involving dual identity as answered higher-order belief questions incorrectly. In contrast many more children answered first-order false belief questions correctly, as many as correct action predictions when the protagonist was partially informed about a property of an object. The results support the claim that children have a specific problem with dual identity, rather than a broader problem representing partial knowledge.