Confronting the language barrier: Theory of mind in deaf children

Anna C. Jones, Roberto Gutierrez, Amanda Ludlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
195 Downloads (Pure)


The current study addressed deaf children's Theory of Mind (ToM) development as measured by a battery of first- and second-order belief tasks. Both a chronological age-matched control group and a younger group of pre-school aged hearing children were compared to a group of deaf children born to hearing parents. A hearing native signer enacted each of the tasks, which were pre-recorded in video clips in English (SSE), British Sign Language (BSL) and spoken English, in order to consider all communication preferences of the deaf children. Results revealed no differences in performance between the deaf and the young hearing children. However, despite the inclusion of ToM tasks based on their preferred mode of communication, the deaf children performed significantly worse at the unexpected-content and second-order belief task compared with their age-matched controls. These findings imply a delay rather than a deficit in ToM in deaf children that could be attributed to limited opportunities to converse and overhear conversations about mental states.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-58
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Communication Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2015


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