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Theory of Mind among Disadvantaged Children: Evidence from a Field Experiment

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Listed:
  • Gary Charness
  • John List
  • Aldo Rustichini
  • Anya Samek
  • Jeroen van de Ven

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 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

  • Gary Charness & John List & Aldo Rustichini & Anya Samek & Jeroen van de Ven, 2020. "Theory of Mind among Disadvantaged Children: Evidence from a Field Experiment," Framed Field Experiments 00686, The Field Experiments Website.
  • Handle: RePEc:feb:framed:00686
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Defever, Fabrice & Imbruno, Michele & Kneller, Richard, 2020. "Trade liberalization, input intermediaries and firm productivity: Evidence from China," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 126(C).
    2. 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.
    3. Andreoni, James & Kuhn, Michael A. & List, John A. & Samek, Anya & Sokal, Kevin & Sprenger, Charles, 2019. "Toward an understanding of the development of time preferences: Evidence from field experiments," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 177(C), pages 1-1.
    4. Roland Fryer & Steven Levitt & John List & Sally Sadoff, 2012. "Enhancing the Efficacy of Teacher Incentives through Loss Aversion: A Field Experiment," Framed Field Experiments 00591, The Field Experiments Website.
    5. James Heckman, 2011. "Policies to foster human capital," Voprosy obrazovaniya / Educational Studies Moscow, National Research University Higher School of Economics, issue 3, pages 73-137.
    6. Uri Gneezy & John A. List & Jeffrey A. Livingston & Xiangdong Qin & Sally Sadoff & Yang Xu, 2019. "Measuring Success in Education: The Role of Effort on the Test Itself," American Economic Review: Insights, American Economic Association, vol. 1(3), pages 291-308, December.
    7. Spyros Galanis, 2021. "Speculative trade and the value of public information," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 23(1), pages 53-68, February.
    8. Isabelle Brocas & Juan D Carrillo, 2018. "The determinants of strategic thinking in preschool children," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 13(5), pages 1-14, May.
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    10. Andreoni, James & Di Girolamo, Amalia & List, John A. & Mackevicius, Claire & Samek, Anya, 2020. "Risk preferences of children and adolescents in relation to gender, cognitive skills, soft skills, and executive functions," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 179(C), pages 729-742.
    11. 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.
    12. 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.
    13. 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.
    14. 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.
    15. John A. List & Azeem M. Shaikh & Yang Xu, 2019. "Multiple hypothesis testing in experimental economics," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 22(4), pages 773-793, December.
    16. Roland G. Fryer, Jr. & Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2015. "Parental Incentives and Early Childhood Achievement: A Field Experiment in Chicago Heights," NBER Working Papers 21477, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. 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.
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    21. Mamageishvili, A. & Schlegel, J. C., 2019. "Optimal Smart Contracts with Costly Verification," Working Papers 19/13, Department of Economics, City University London.
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    Cited by:

    1. Andreoni, James & Di Girolamo, Amalia & List, John A. & Mackevicius, Claire & Samek, Anya, 2020. "Risk preferences of children and adolescents in relation to gender, cognitive skills, soft skills, and executive functions," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 179(C), pages 729-742.
    2. Henning Hermes & Daniel Schunk, 2022. "If you could read my mind–an experimental beauty-contest game with children," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 25(1), pages 229-253, February.
    3. John A. List & Ragan Petrie & Anya Samek, 2021. "How Experiments with Children Inform Economics," NBER Working Papers 28825, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. John A. List, 2022. "Enhancing critical thinking skill formation: Getting fast thinkers to slow down," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 53(1), pages 100-108, January.
    5. Brocas, Isabelle & Carrillo, Juan D., 2021. "Young children use commodities as an indirect medium of exchange," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 125(C), pages 48-61.
    6. Brocas, Isabelle & Carrillo, Juan D., 2020. "The evolution of choice and learning in the two-person beauty contest game from kindergarten to adulthood," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 132-143.
    7. Li, Ling & Chen, Xu & Wu, Dandan & Li, Hui, 2020. "Effects of attending preschool on adolescents’ reading literacy: Evidence from the ethnic minority children in China," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 116(C).

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    More about this item

    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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