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Theory of mind among disadvantaged children: Evidence from a field experiment

Author

Listed:
  • Charness, Gary
  • List, John A.
  • Rustichini, Aldo
  • Samek, Anya
  • Van De Ven, Jeroen

Abstract

Theory of Mind (ToM), the ability to correctly attribute mental states to others, is important in social interactions. We evaluate the development of ToM in about 800 mostly disadvantaged young children. We next conduct a field experiment with about 160 children in which we find that the low ToM rates for these disadvantaged children improve substantially in environments where the presence of other children is made salient. We see that ToM performance increases for both younger and older children in the treatment with strong salience, but that the treatment with weaker salience seems to be only effective in improving the ToM rates for older children.

Suggested Citation

  • Charness, Gary & List, John A. & Rustichini, Aldo & Samek, Anya & Van De Ven, Jeroen, 2019. "Theory of mind among disadvantaged children: Evidence from a field experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 166(C), pages 174-194.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:166:y:2019:i:c:p:174-194
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2019.08.025
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ben-Ner, Avner & List, John A. & Putterman, Louis & Samek, Anya, 2017. "Learned generosity? An artefactual field experiment with parents and their children," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 143(C), pages 28-44.
    2. Samak, Anya C., 2013. "Is there a gender gap in preschoolers’ competitiveness? An experiment in the U.S," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 22-31.
    3. James Heckman, 2011. "Policies to foster human capital," Educational Studies, Higher School of Economics, issue 3, pages 73-137.
    4. James J. Heckman & Jora Stixrud & Sergio Urzua, 2006. "The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 411-482, July.
    5. Alexander Cappelen & John List & Anya Samek & Bertil Tungodden, 2016. "The Effect of Early Education on Social Preferences," Framed Field Experiments 00584, The Field Experiments Website.
    6. Jason M Cowell & Anya Samek & John List & Jean Decety, 2015. "The Curious Relation between Theory of Mind and Sharing in Preschool Age Children," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 10(2), pages 1-8, February.
    7. List, Annika J. & List, John A. & Samek, Anya, 2017. "Discrimination among pre-school children: Field experimental evidence," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 157(C), pages 159-162.
    8. List, John A. & Samak, Anya C., 2013. "Exploring the origins of charitable acts: Evidence from an artefactual field experiment with young children," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 118(3), pages 431-434.
    9. Gary Charness & Aldo Rustichini & Jeroen Ven, 2018. "Self-confidence and strategic behavior," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 21(1), pages 72-98, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. James Andreoni & Amalia Di Girolamo & John List & Claire Mackevicius & Anya Samek, 2019. "Risk Preferences of Children and Adolescents in Relation to Gender, Cognitive Skills, Soft Skills, and Executive Functions," Artefactual Field Experiments 00668, The Field Experiments Website.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Theory of mind; Social salience; Children; Field experiment; Disadvantaged;

    JEL classification:

    • B49 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Other
    • C70 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - General
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality

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