Syntactic Recursion Facilitates and Working Memory Predicts Recursive Theory of Mind

Arslan B., Hohenberger A. , Verbrugge R.

PLOS ONE, vol.12, no.1, 2017 (Journal Indexed in SCI) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 12 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Doi Number: 10.1371/journal.pone.0169510
  • Title of Journal : PLOS ONE


In this study, we focus on the possible roles of second-order syntactic recursion and working memory in terms of simple and complex span tasks in the development of second-order false belief reasoning. We tested 89 Turkish children in two age groups, one younger (4;6-6;5 years) and one older (6;7-8;10 years). Although second-order syntactic recursion is significantly correlated with the second-order false belief task, results of ordinal logistic regressions revealed that the main predictor of second-order false belief reasoning is complex working memory span. Unlike simple working memory and second-order syntactic recursion tasks, the complex working memory task required processing information serially with additional reasoning demands that require complex working memory strategies. Based on our results, we propose that children's second-order theory of mind develops when they have efficient reasoning rules to process embedded beliefs serially, thus overcoming a possible serial processing bottleneck.