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Theory of mind in recognizing and recovering communicative failures



We analyzed the role played by theory of mind (ToM) in children's ability to recognize and repair different kinds of communicative failures. In particular, we analyzed three different kinds of communicative failures: failure of the expression act, communicative meaning, and communicative effect. We administered videotaped stories, in which people act out a communicative failure and first- and second-order ToM tasks, to 120 children ranging in age from 3.5 to 8.5 years. The children showed a trend of increasing difficulty in managing the communicative failures investigated. Moreover, children's ToM ability is partially correlated with recognition and repair of a communicative task; however, it is not able to explain the trend of difficulty we detected. We suggest that the factor better explaining such trend is the increasing complexity of the mental representations underlying the three different kinds of failures.


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ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Francesca M. Bosco, Department of Psychology, University of Turin, Via Po 14, 10123 Turin, Italy. E-mail:


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Theory of mind in recognizing and recovering communicative failures



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