Jean Nicod Institute

Paris, France

Jean Nicod Institute

Paris, France

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Mascaro O.,Jean Nicod Institute | Mascaro O.,Central European University | Mascaro O.,French National Center for Scientific Research | Morin O.,Jean Nicod Institute | Morin O.,Central European University
PLoS ONE | Year: 2015

This paper investigates the ontogeny of human's naive concept of truth. Surprisingly, children find it hard to treat assertions as false before their fifth birthday. Yet, we show in six studies (N = 140) that human's concept of falsity develops early. Two-year-olds use truth-functional negation to exclude one term in an alternative (Study 1). Three-year-olds can evaluate discrepancies between the content of a representation and what it aims at representing (Study 2). They use this knowledge to treat beliefs and assertions as false (Study 3). Four-year-olds recognise the involutive nature of falsity ascriptions: they properly infer 'p' from 'It is not true that "It is not true that "p""' (Study 4), an inference that rests on second-order representations of representations. Controls confirm that children do not merely equate being mistaken with failing to achieve one's goal (Studies 5 and 6). These results demonstrate remarkable capacities to evaluate representations, and indicate that in the absence of formal training, young children develop the building blocks of a theory of truth and falsity-a naive epistemology. We suggest that children's difficulties in discarding false assertions need not reflect any conceptual lacuna, and may originate from their being trustful. Copyright: © 2015 Mascaro, Morin. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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