data is nonetheless intriguing, as it additionally appears to challenge the conclusions of several other researchers (see Hadwin and Perner, 1991; MacLaren and Olson, 1993; Ruffman and Keenan, 1996).
The element of planning was expected to induce better performance on belief-based emotion tasks. Based on the research by Hala and Chandler (1996) about the role of strategic planning in solving false belief tasks, it was thought that perhaps plan- ning could serve a similar role in the anecdotally more difficult surprise question. Not only did plan- ning not serve a role, but also children performed well above chance on the all of the emotion ques- tions, including those about surprise, indicating that some other aspect of the procedures must have insti- gated more adept understandings of the task. The children in Hala and Chandler's (1996) study were 3- year-olds, which is much younger than those used in this study. This age difference may account for the observed differences in the effect of planning.
The only children who appeared to have trouble with the surprise task were those children who failed false belief tasks. Since surprise is a belief-based emotions, it can be assumed that a child who cannot pass false belief tasks, and does not have a maturely developed theory of mind and belief- desire psychology, would not perform well on ques- tions about surprise. Thus, the poor performance by these children is to be expected. A more important question is what instigated those children who passed the false belief tasks to perform just as well on the surprise questions, in regards to these partic- ular procedures.
Hadwin and Perner (1991), MacLaren and Olson (1993), and Ruffman and Keenan (1996) all observed a developmental lag between a children's understanding of false belief tasks and their under- standing of belief-based emotions. Results from the present study directly contradict these findings. The results are more supportive of the studies by Wellman and Bartsch (1988) and Wellman and Banerjee (1991) that found that an understanding of false-belief is necessary for an understanding of belief-based emotions. Most likely, concrete proce- dural differences account for the discrepancy in results between this study and those previously men- tioned. The tasks in this study, whether in the plan- ning conditions or not, were extremely engaging. It is possible that the children were forced to pay clos- Perspectives in Psychology
er attention to the tasks and thus to the behaviors and feelings of the characters in the tasks, making it eas- ier for the children to attribute emotions to them. The tasks in all of the other cited studies made the child an observer, not an interactive associate. While the specific element of planning may not have had a direct effect on children's abilities, the interac- tive nature of the procedures may have made the tasks inherently easier.
Anecdotally, there is one potential flaw in the results of this study. The emotion question simply asked children to point at one of two faces (either unhappy and surprise, or neutral). However, many children volunteered verbally what emotion they thought the character was feeling, and at the same
always identified the they chose to identify
unhappy face correctly it at all. Children rarely
the neutral face. In identifying the surprised children often correctly distinguished it as
Emotion words including "worried," "angry" were used by many children
"nervous," and to describe the
surprised face, fact a difficult
indicating that perhaps surprise is emotion for children this young
identify, particularly in this protocol. It is
in the hand-drawn format possible that the children's
interpretation of emotion similar
the expression as another negative to unhappiness could account for
their superior performance on words, the term "angry" from
the tasks. In other a child's perspective
can have the same sort of lack of desire fulfillment)
negative desire basis (or as unhappy, thus indicat-
they believe it to be, is based more on desire on belief. This is simply more evidence that
and less perhaps
the nature of at lar protocol is young children
least the surprise task in this particu- a relatively rudimentary task that are capable of accomplishing.
Further exploration of the role of engaging protocol and the potential misunderstanding of emo- tion faces is necessary before any formal conclu- sions can be drawn. Overall, however, the results of this research support the theory that the understand- ing of belief-based emotions parallels the under- standing of false-belief tasks, and that theory of mind and the understanding of emotions evolve in coinciding courses.