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Francesca Happé on False-Belief Task - Dictionary of Arguments

Slater I 151
False-Belief Task/Happé: Happé (1993)(1) compared the understanding of literal and non-literal statements such as:

“Caroline was so embarrassed. Her face was like a beetroot,”

which is literally understandable and

“Ian was very clever and tricky. He really was a fox,”

which is literally false. She argued that “just as in the false belief situation (but not the true belief case) the actor’s mental state (belief) is crucial, and reality alone is no guide to action, so in metaphor (but not [literal language]) the speaker’s mental state (intention) is vital, and working with “reality” in the form of the literal meaning of the utterance is not sufficient for comprehension” (p. 104).
Similarly, researchers went on comparing the ability to understand seeing vs. knowing, deception vs. sabotage, false photographs vs. false beliefs, the recognition of basic vs. complex emotions, and soon (for a review, see Baron-Cohen, 2000)(2). >Autism/Baron-Cohen, >False Belief Task/psychological theories, >Theory of Mind/ToM/psychological theories, >Theory of Mind/Dennett.


1. Happé, F. (1993). Communicative competence and theory of mind in autism: A test of relevance theory. Cognition, 48, 101—119.
2. Baron-Cohen, S. (2000). Theory of mind and autism: A 15-year review. In S. Baron-Cohen, H. Tager-Flusberg & D. J. Cohen (Eds), Understanding other minds: Perspectives from developmental cognitive neuroscience (pp. 3—21). Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Coralie Chevallier, “Theory of Mind and Autism. Beyond Baron-Cohen et al’s. Sally-Anne Study”, in: Alan M. Slater and Paul C. Quinn (eds.) 2012. Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies. London: Sage Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Happé, Francesca
Slater I
Alan M. Slater
Paul C. Quinn
Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2012


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