Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Lauren B. Adamson

Second Advisor

Rebecca A. Williamson

Third Advisor

Diana L. Robins


Research on theory of mind (ToM) has been dominated by the traditional False Belief tasks; however, recent work has established a developmental sequence for children’s mental-state understanding. Wellman and Liu (2004) formulated a ToM scale that tests four additional aspects of ToM abilities in the visual realm: Diverse Desires, Diverse Beliefs, Knowledge Access, and Real-Apparent Emotions. Our study extended the scale to include five parallel tasks assessing ToM in the auditory realm. Sixty-six typically developing preschoolers (30 female) between the ages of 3- and 5-years-old were tested using 10 ToM tasks (5 visual, 5 auditory). A 3(age) x 2(modality) x 2(gender) repeated measures ANOVA yielded significant effects for age and gender, where 4- and 5-year-olds demonstrated greater mental-state understanding than 3-year-olds and girls passed more tasks than boys. There was no effect of modality nor did any interactions emerge. Like the visual tasks in the theory-of-mind scale, the auditory tasks form a scalable set, with Diverse Desires and Diverse Beliefs occurring earlier in the scale than Knowledge Access, False Belief, and Real-Apparent Emotions. Our new scale provides researchers with five novel tasks to measure the progression of theory-of-mind development in the auditory realm and may be extended to assess preschoolers, such as children with visual impairments and children with autism spectrum disorder, who have shown delays in mental-state understanding when tested using predominantly visual tasks