Theory of Mind among Disadvantaged Children: Evidence from a Field Experiment

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August 2019
Paper author(s): 
Gary Charness
John A. List
Aldo Rustichini
Anya Samek
Jeroen Van De Ven
Education - Health
Poverty - Inequality - Aid Effectiveness

Theory of Mind (ToM), the ability to correctly attribute mental states to others, is important in social interactions. We evaluate the development of ToM in about 800 mostly disadvantaged young children. We next conduct a field experiment with about 160 children in which we find that the low ToM rates for these disadvantaged children improve substantially in environments where the presence of other children is made salient. We see that ToM performance increases for both younger and older children in the treatment with strong salience, but that the treatment with weaker salience seems to be only effective in improving the ToM rates for older children.


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