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18-Month-Olds Predict Specific Action Mistakes Through Attribution of False Belief, Not Ignorance, and Intervene Accordingly


should be sent to Birgit Knudsen, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Wundtlaan 1, 6525 XD Nijmegen, The Netherlands. E-mail:


This study employed a new “anticipatory intervening” paradigm to tease apart false belief and ignorance-based interpretations of 18-month-olds’ helpful informing. We investigated in three experiments whether 18-month-old infants inform an adult selectively about one of the two locations depending on the adult’s belief about which of the two locations held her toy. In experiments 1 and 2, the adult falsely believed that one of the locations held her toy. In experiment 3, the adult was ignorant about which of the two locations held her toy. In all cases, however, the toy had been removed from the locations and the locations contained instead materials which the adult wanted to avoid. In experiments 1 and 2, infants spontaneously and selectively informed the adult about the aversive material in the location the adult falsely believed to hold her toy. In contrast, in experiment 3, infants informed the ignorant adult about both locations equally. Results reveal that infants expected the adult to commit a specific action mistake when she held a false belief, but not when she was ignorant. Further, infants were motivated to intervene proactively. Findings reveal a predictive action-based usage of “theory-of-mind” skills at 18 months of age.