Solving the Puzzle about Early Belief-Ascription

By Katharina A. Helming, Brent Strickland & Pierre Jacob

Abstract: Developmental psychology currently faces a deep puzzle: most children before 4 years of age fail elicited-response false-belief tasks, but preverbal infants demon- strate spontaneous false-belief understanding. Two main strategies are available: cultural constructivism and early-belief understanding. The latter view (unlike the former) assumes that failure at elicited-response false-belief tasks need not reflect the inability to understand false beliefs. The burden of early-belief understanding is to explain why elicited-response false-belief tasks are so challenging for most children under 4 years of age. The goal of this article is to offer a pragmatic framework whose purpose is to discharge this burden.