False belief, complementation language, and contextual bias in preschoolers


Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


In the present study, we address two questions concerning the relation between children's false belief and their understanding of complex object complements. The first question is whether the previously demonstrated association between tensed complements and false belief generalizes to infinitival complements (de Villiers & Pyers, 2002). The second question is whether the relation is altered by the perceptual saliency of test objects (i.e., reality pull) and expressed desire of story characters (i.e., desire pull) as extraneous contextual factors. In Study 1, unexpectedly, we showed in a group of 4-year-olds that false belief correlated with comprehension of infinitival but not tensed complements. In Studies 2 and 3 it was found that a significant part of the association was explainable by a reality/desire pull built into the test context. We conclude that the relation between false belief and complementation is context-sensitive. The perceptual saliency of certain test objects and desire of story characters may in some situations bias the child towards attending more to the commonality between false belief and complement understanding, which enhances their association. Copyright © 2010 The Author(s).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-179
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Development
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01 Mar 2010


Ng, L., Cheung, H., & Xiao, W. (2010). False belief, complementation language, and contextual bias in preschoolers. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 34(2), 168-179. doi: 10.1177/0165025409350954


  • Complements
  • False belief
  • Reality/desire pull
  • Theory of mind


Dive into the research topics of 'False belief, complementation language, and contextual bias in preschoolers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.