Two-year-olds grasp the intentional structure of pretense acts.
Twenty-two- and 27-month-old children were tested for their understanding of pretending as a specific intentional action form. Pairs of superficially similar behaviors - pretending to perform an action and trying to perform that action - were demonstrated to children. The 27-month-olds, and to some degree the 22-month-olds, showed in their responses that they understood the intentional structure of both kinds of behaviors: after pretense models, they themselves performed appropriate inferential pretense acts, whereas after the trying models they properly performed the action or tried to perform it with novel means. These findings are discussed in the light of recent debates about children's developing understanding of pretense and theory of mind.
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