Prior Theory of Mind research using elicited-response tasks in which children are
asked direct questions about an agent’s false belief suggests that children younger
than age 4 do not attribute false beliefs to other agents. Recently, spontaneous-looking
studies have claimed that soon after their first birthday, infants already reason about
agents’ false belief, false perception and false identity. These visual fixation researches
not only provide support for the possibility of knowledge and belief attribution in
infancy, but also prove that this ability is quite robust because it can be demonstrated
with different spontaneous-looking tasks. The authors first examine elicited-response
false belief research, which, while confirming that children under 4 years perform
poorly on standard tests, suggests nevertheless that they have more implicit understanding
of beliefs than they can express. We then address two recent bodies of
spontaneous-looking studies that suggest that infants in the second year of life can
already attribute false beliefs about location and identity as well as false perceptions.
We also introduce the early psychological reasoning account for the discrepant
findings of elicited-response false belief tasks and spontaneous-looking tasks. Why
elicited-response tasks are particularly difficult for young children is also discussed.