Eighteen-month-old infants show false belief understanding in an active helping paradigm

David Buttelmann*, Malinda Carpenter, Michael Tomasello

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

429 Citations (Scopus)


Recently, several studies have claimed that soon after their first birthday infants understand others' false beliefs. However, some have questioned these findings based on criticisms of the looking-time paradigms used. Here we report a new paradigm to test false belief understanding in infants using a more active behavioral response: helping. Specifically, the task was for infants to help an adult achieve his goal - but to determine that goal infants had to take into account what the adult believed (i.e., whether or not he falsely believed there was a toy inside a box). Results showed that by 18 months of age infants successfully took into account the adult's belief in the process of attempting to determine his goal. Results for 16-month-olds were in the same direction but less clear. These results represent by far the youngest age of false belief understanding in a task with an active behavioral measure. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-342
Number of pages6
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2009


  • False belief
  • Helping
  • Theory of mind
  • Infancy
  • MIND


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