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Making sense of ourselves
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4.2 Studying ToM in young children

The most famous and widely used method for exploring ToM in children is called the Sally–Anne task (Figure 6). (It is sometimes also known as the Sally–Anne test or the Sally–Ann task/Sally–Ann test.) There are many variations of this task, but the classic version runs as follows. The child is introduced to two dolls, Sally and Anne, and asked to recall their names. Next, he or she is told a short story in which Sally is said to hide a marble in her box and then leave the room. While she is out of the room, Anne removes this marble from Sally’s box and puts it in her own box. Sally then re-enters the room. Having heard this story, the child is asked the critical question: ‘Where will Sally look for her marble?’

Described image
Figure 6 The Sally–Anne task

Pause for thought

Why do you think the Sally–Anne task is sometimes also called a ‘false beliefs task’, and how might understanding false beliefs relate to children’s ToM?

Do you think this task is effective in measuring ToM?

What might be some of its potential problems and weakness?