The validity and scalability of the theory-of-mind scale with toddlers and pre-schoolers

Rachel M Hiller, Nathan Weber, Robyn L Young

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Despite the importance of theory of mind (ToM) for typical development, there remain two key issues affecting our ability to draw robust conclusions. One is the continued focus on false-belief as the sole measure of ToM. The second is the lack of empirically validated measures of ToM as a broad construct. Our key aim was to examine the validity and reliability of the five-item ToM scale (Peterson, Wellman, & Lui, 2005). In particular, we extended on previous research of this scale by assessing its scalability and validity for use with children from two years of age. Sixty-eight typically developing children (aged 24 to 61 months) were assessed on the scale’s five tasks, along with a sixth Sally-Anne false-belief task. Our data replicated the scalability of the five tasks for a Rasch- but not Guttman-scale. Guttman analysis showed a four-item scale may be more suitable for this age range. Further, the tasks showed good internal consistency and validity for use with children as young as two years of age. Overall, the measure provides a valid and reliable tool for the assessment of ToM, and in particular the longitudinal assessment of this ability as a construct.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1388-1393
JournalPsychological Assessment
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014


  • theory of mind
  • scale
  • toddlers
  • pre-schoolers


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