Perceptual Access Reasoning (PAR) in Developing a Representational Theory of Mind

Volume 86, Issue 3, Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development

By William V. Fabricius, Christopher R. Gonzales, Annelise Pesch, Amy A. Weimer, John  A. Pugliese, Kathleen Carroll, Rebecca R. Bolnick, Anne S. Kupfer, Nancy Eisenberg, and Tracy L. Spinrad 

Included in this issue:


It is widely believed that by the end of the preschool years, children acquire an understanding of false beliefs, a cornerstone  of a commonsense theory of mind. In this Monograph, Fabricius and colleagues argue that children do not understand false beliefs or true beliefs until middle childhood. Their theory of Perceptual Access Reasoning (PAR) points to a new understanding of how theory of mind develops. When using PAR, young children can understand what others see and know in the present, but they have yet to become aware that the mind represents things. Predictions of PAR theory are tested by drawing on data from earlier studies published between 1983 and 2017 and from 13 previously unpublished studies conducted between 2003 and 2014. The latter involved 580 4- to 7-year-old children, recruited from university and nearby communities in the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area. All participants were native-English speakers; additional demographic data, when available, are reported in the monograph. The authors note that PAR theory offers new methods to assess implicit and explicit theory of mind. They conclude that their findings provide support for PAR theory which has important implications for understanding theory of mind not only during the preschool and middle-school years, but also during infancy and adolescence.

About the Authors



Overview: Perceptual Access Reasoning (PAR) in Developing a Representational Theory of Mind 
How and when do children understand others’ minds? In this video abstract, SRCD Monograph author Christopher Gonzales provides an overview of the work with lead author William Fabricius and colleagues, in which they challenge the prevailing view in developmental science that a representational theory of mind is in place by the preschool years. 

How Does Perceptual Access Reasoning Differ from False Belief Reasoning About Theory of Mind?  | Monographs 86.3 
The basis of Fabricius et al’s (2021) perceptual access reasoning theory is that the classic false belief test of theory of mind does not measure a child’s representational understanding of the mind. SRCD Monograph lead author Fabricius explains this key point of monograph issue 86(3).  

Scientific Progress in Investigating Children’s Understanding of the Mind  | Monographs 86.3 
How has developmental science evolved over the years in the assessment and interpretation of children’s understanding of the mind? SRCD Monograph lead author Fabricius explains how he and the co-authors of monograph issue 86(3) hope to inspire new questions and methods in the study of theory of mind. 

The Developmental Story of Children’s Understanding of the Mind  | Monographs 86.3 
Why is it important to understand the developmental progression of children’s theory of mind? SRCD Monograph lead author Fabricius explains how he and his co-authors of monograph issue 86(3) offer new insights into children’s theory of mind development. 

Teaching and Research Resources