This past weekend, Erin Karahuta (graduate student) represented the Child Development Research Group in the Grad Expo Program during Lehigh’s Alumni Weekend. At this event, Lehigh’s graduate students talked to alumni and their families about the research they conduct at university. Erin talked to families about how children come to learn about others’ mental states and demonstrated a classic task used to assess if children can understand that other people can have beliefs different than their own, as well as beliefs that are not true.
To demonstrate this task, Erin showed families a Rice Krispy’s box. Before it was opened, everyone predicted cereal would be inside the box, but instead, she revealed the box contained small toys. She then asked families what the next group of people to see the box would guess was inside. Everyone correctly guessed “cereal.” However, if Erin were to have asked a group of 3-year-olds the same question, the majority of them would predict that people seeing the box for the first time would know it contained animals. This is the case because before age 4 or 5, a child has difficulty understanding that people can have beliefs about the world that are contrary to what the child knows to be true. The ability to understand others’ mental states underlies children’s ability to successfully navigate their social world.