Language, Mental State Vocabulary, and False Belief Understanding in Children With Cochlear Implants Purpose This study examined false belief understanding and its predictors in school-age children who are deaf with cochlear implants and who use spoken language. Method False belief understanding was measured through an explanation-of-action task in 30 children between the ages of 3 and 12 years who used cochlear ... Research Article
Research Article  |   July 01, 2009
Language, Mental State Vocabulary, and False Belief Understanding in Children With Cochlear Implants
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Kimberly Peters
    Western Washington University, Bellingham
  • Ethan Remmel
    Western Washington University, Bellingham
  • Debra Richards
    Monroe Public Schools, Monroe, WA
  • Contact author: Kimberly Peters, Western Washington University, CSD, Parks Hall 37, Bellingham, WA 98225. E-mail: kimberly.peters@wwu.edu.
Article Information
Development / Hearing Disorders / Hearing Aids, Cochlear Implants & Assistive Technology / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Research Articles
Research Article   |   July 01, 2009
Language, Mental State Vocabulary, and False Belief Understanding in Children With Cochlear Implants
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, July 2009, Vol. 40, 245-255. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2009/07-0079)
History: Received October 5, 2007 , Revised April 18, 2008 , Accepted November 2, 2008
 
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, July 2009, Vol. 40, 245-255. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2009/07-0079)
History: Received October 5, 2007; Revised April 18, 2008; Accepted November 2, 2008
Web of Science® Times Cited: 8

Purpose This study examined false belief understanding and its predictors in school-age children who are deaf with cochlear implants and who use spoken language.

Method False belief understanding was measured through an explanation-of-action task in 30 children between the ages of 3 and 12 years who used cochlear implants. Children told a wordless story from which expressive syntax and vocabulary scores were obtained. Scores on the false belief explanation task were then correlated with a variety of language and vocabulary variables, and regression analyses were completed to ascertain significant predictors of theory of mind (ToM) performance.

Results Children’s false belief explanation of anomalous action was best predicted by age; general language ability; and spontaneous use of mental state vocabulary, specifically, cognitive vocabulary. Even the youngest children demonstrated awareness of others' mental states and made reference to them in explaining mistaken actions, supporting the assertion by M. Marschark, V. Green, G. Hindmarsh, and S. Walker (2000)  that children who are deaf are not lacking a ToM.

Clinical Implications Results of this study suggest that ToM maturation in deaf children might be facilitated by developing general spoken language skills as well as understanding and using cognitive and emotional language. These findings might also extend to children with normal hearing who are also at risk for ToM deficits (e.g., children on the autistic spectrum and children with pragmatic language delays).

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This research was funded by Western Washington University’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. Thanks to Kathleen James and Raegan Bergstrom for their work on this project and to the graduate students in the Communication Sciences and Disorders and Psychology Departments at Western Washington University who served as research assistants. We appreciate the contribution of the families and children who took time to participate in this project.
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