Papers from the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology Conferences

Publication Date

2011

Abstract

This study investigates the theory of mind understanding as reflected in the narratives of children from families of low as well as high socioeconomic-status (SES). A group of 30 Hindi-speaking children from six to seven years of age and their mothers participated in this study. Children were asked to narrate six stories prompted by pictures and standard verbal probes. In addition, they were also administered false-belief tasks to assess their theory of mind understanding. Later, their mothers were asked to narrate three stories to their children. Content analysis of the stories indicated the frequency of occurrence of words referring to mental states such as emotion, intention, thought, belief, etc. The low and high SES children differ in their reference to the mental state of the protagonist in the stories narrated by them. The result was interpreted concerning the landscape of action and landscape of consciousness discussed by Bruner (1986). Interestingly, even though all the children could refer to mental states in their narratives, approximately 50% of the children from low SES backgrounds failed in the false-belief task, indicating a lack of understanding of theory of mind. The narration by the mothers from high SES families was more elaborate with significant reference to the mental state of the protagonist as compared to the narration of the mothers from low SES families. A significant relationship between mothers’ narration/theory of mind understanding and children’s narration/theory of mind understanding was also observed.

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