Incorrect Responses in First-Order False-Belief Tests: A Hybrid-Logical Formalization

Torben Braüner



In the paper (Braüner, 2014) we were concerned with logical formalizations of the reasoning involved in giving correct responses to the psychological tests called the Sally-Anne test and the Smarties test, which test children’s ability to ascribe false beliefs to others. A key feature of the formal proofs given in that paper is that they explicitly formalize the perspective shift to another person that is required for figuring out the correct answers – you have to put yourself in another person’s shoes, so to speak, to give the correct answer. We shall in the present paper be concerned with what happens when answers are given that are not correct. The typical incorrect answers indicate that children failing false-belief tests have problems shifting to a perspective different from their own, to be more precise, they simply reason from their own perspective. Based on this hypothesis, we in the present paper give logical formalizations that in a systematic way model the typical incorrect answers. The remarkable fact that the incorrect answers can be derived using logically correct rules indicates that the origin of the mistakes does not lie in the children’s logical reasoning, but rather in a wrong interpretation of the task.


logic in cognitive science; hybrid logic; natural deduction; false- belief tests; perspective shift

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ISSN: 1425-3305 (print version)

ISSN: 2300-9802 (electronic version)

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