Children's comprehension of characters' knowledge

Children's comprehension of characters' knowledge

Smith College Lab (Smith College)

Who Can Participate

For 4- to 7-year-olds who speak English as a native language.

What Happens

You and your child will listen to three stories, each accompanied by pictures. All stories will include named characters who will engage with each other during ordinary activities. At various points throughout the story, your child will be prompted to answer questions about which characters know what in the story. For example, one character might not know both names of a person, such as “Mr. Johnson” and “the local baker” and your child could be asked, "Does this character know Mr.Johnson is the local baker?"

What We're Studying

This study looks at how children come to understand that different characters may know or believe different things in a story. For example, someone might not know both names of a person, like that “Mr. Johnson” is the same person as “the local baker”. We designed this study to ask when children begin to understand that a story character may not know all the names that refer to another story character. We are interested in this development because we believe it may be an important stepping stone for developing a mature theory of mind, or rather, the ability to accurately represent what others think.


20 minutes


We will email a Junior Scientist Certificate (no monetary value) to families who participate, have elected to provide us with their email, and have a child clearly present in the video frame while the experimental session is ongoing. Families should expect to receive their certificates within 1 week of participating, regardless of study completion or data withdrawal. Only one certificate will be sent per child regardless of the number of times a child participates. There is no additional compensation provided but we hope you enjoy the opportunity to contribute to science!

This study is conducted by Jill de Villiers (

Would you like to participate in this study?