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Sodian, Beate; Licata, Maria; Kristen-Antonow, Susanne; Paulus, Markus; Killen, Melanie; Woodward, Amanda (2016): Understanding of Goals, Beliefs, and Desires Predicts Morally Relevant Theory of Mind: A Longitudinal Investigation. In: Child Development, Vol. 87, No. 4: pp. 1221-1232
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Developmental continuity between infants' understanding of intentional agency (goals, beliefs, and desires) and young children's attributions of moral intentions were studied in a 4-year longitudinal study (N=77 children). First, goal encoding at the age of 7months and implicit false belief understanding at 18months were predictive of children's understanding of an accidental transgressor's moral intentions at the age of 5years. Second, 24-month-olds' understanding of subjective desires was predictive of children's ability to understand an accidental transgressor's false belief at 5years. These correlations remained significant when controlling for gender and verbal IQ. These findings support the theory that an early understanding of intentional agency is foundational for moral cognition in childhood.