The current study examines Theory of Mind (ToM) development in English-speaking ethnically Chinese 3- to 6-year-old children raised in Singapore, a country influenced by both eastern and western cultures. All tasks were administered in English. Study 1 investigated the vertical development of ToM in 3- to 6-year-olds (N = 65) with five tasks, including diverse desires, diverse beliefs, knowledge access, content false-belief, and explicit false-belief tasks. Results revealed that like English-speaking preschoolers growing up in the West, English-speaking Chinese Singaporean preschoolers develop the understanding of diverse desires and diverse beliefs earlier than the understanding of knowledge access and false beliefs; however, contrary to previous findings in both the West and East, even 5-year-olds had not fully developed the understanding of false beliefs. Study 2 specifically examined the understanding of beliefs through the appearance-reality, deceptive pointing, false belief, and non-mental states control tasks. Results (N = 127) showed that in terms of the development of beliefs, English-speaking Chinese Singaporean preschoolers develop the understanding of the difference between appearance and reality earlier than deception, the understanding of false beliefs regarding location and content. In addition, Study 2 replicated the findings of Study 1 by showing that even 5 year old English-speaking Chinese Singaporean preschoolers had not fully developed the understanding of false beliefs. Together, these results suggest that the developmental pattern of ToM in English-speaking Chinese Singaporean children is unique, possibly reflecting a mix of East and West, and their unique linguistic experience.
Author, F. M. (2013). Title of chapter. In Y. Kashima, E. Kashima, & R. Beatson (Eds.), Steering the cultural dynamics: Proceedings from the 20th International Congress of the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology, (paper number). (URL)