Little pranksters: Inhibitory control mediates the association between false belief understanding and practical joking in young children

Zhenlin WANG, Lamei WANG

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

Abstract

To successfully pull a practical joke on someone, children need to understand that their victims do not know what they themselves know, be able to intentionally manipulate others’ beliefs, and maintain a straight face to safeguard the integrity of the joke. This study examined the relationship between children’s developing theory of mind (ToM), inhibitory control, and their ability to pull a practical joke. Ninety-five children between ages 2 and 6 participated in, among other measures, a practical joke task that required them to knowingly give one of the experimenters a gift box containing a rubber insect. Results showed that children’s ability to pull a practical joke was significantly related to their age, false belief understanding (FBU), inhibitory control, and verbal ability. Children with more siblings were more likely to successfully pull a practical joke. Most importantly, inhibitory control was shown to mediate the relation between FBU and practical joking. The findings provide evidence that practical joking as an example of ToM use is effortful. Copyright © 2021 The Author(s).
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Development
Early online date03 Feb 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 03 Feb 2021

Citation

Wang, Z., & Wang, L. (2021). Little pranksters: Inhibitory control mediates the association between false belief understanding and practical joking in young children. International Journal of Behavioral Development. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/0165025420988594

Keywords

  • Theory of mind
  • False belief understanding
  • Inhibitory control
  • Practical joke
  • Young children

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